By Bob Eubanks
Well John and Joyce spent Christmas under the Detroit Street bridge. I walked to John’s ‘stick’. The homeless substitute the word stick for home. I said, "Hi, Joyce" and John shouted, "Hi there" as I crawled through the hole in the fence and walked up the slope to where I saw a mattress surrounded by garbage and rubbish.
John and Joyce tell me Christmas is depressing. They say people would pull up in cars and vans and say "Hi, Merry Christmas" and hand them bags of groceries, cooked dinners (usually cold) and shopping bags full of clothes. Joyce says none of the clothes fit. The only thing that fits out of about fifty pieces of apparel was a red knit skull hat she was wearing.
We went to the corner where people were passing out Christmas lunch and we got one for each of us. A little brown paper sack, like you took to school when you were a kid. There were two hot dogs, ketchup and mustard packets and other good stuff. Joyce reached somewhere underneath the mattress they lived on. Everything they needed could be reached from there. They were Christians. "We’ve got two toothbrushes." Both John and Joyce’s teeth are rotting and they say they will never use them. They offer me the two new brushes, "After all," they say, "You’ve got teeth." We share a laugh.
Then they continue their inventory. I got a little plastic razor, it would take about thirty of these to get rid of this beard. Joyce pulls out a really fancy bar of soap, the kind they have at hotels. She says she likes the way it smells. A little later, John describes his philosophy about life. You are born, you live and you die. And I’m just putting in my time. That’s what you do between being born and dying, he explained. "It’s all meaningless to me. Who cares?" Joyce speaks of loneliness.
One night Joyce wakes John and he says "what are you waking me for?" She looks me straight in the eye. She was upset "I’m lonely, will you talk to me?" So I looked at her and said "all right let’s have fun it’s Christmas, I’ll talk to you." So we talked about how much fun people were having in their cars, trucks and vans hurrying to and fro probably in a hurry to make it home this Christmas day. Joyce and I can taste the depression and despair in our throats. Oh well, tomorrow is another day.
Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 25