I sit stationed at the front desk, writing e-mails and handling my business. Outside they wander from city sidewalk to mailbox. They lean against windows, spit, sputter, and laugh. They aren’t afraid to make eye contact—because most aren’t willing to meet their gaze. They are the forgotten, the ugly, the sleepless.
They set up camps in doorways, one is dozing off right now—he apologized as I opened the front door, “Sir you can stay, but I don’t want to wake you up when I leave.” As the glass door whined shut he muttered, “I haven’t slept a whole night in two years, another night won’t matter.”
He left room, he sleeps sideways tonight.
Underneath a blue sleeping bag his body rises and falls. Whisps of bright gray hair peek out from a red cap, his battered foam mat curls up around him—holding him tight.
The theatre across the streets empties quickly and soon the night is filled with those who can afford the luxury of tickets. While the revelers fill the streets, his body rises and falls with the same cadence, he is indifferent to the noise.
Two young men, they sneak up to the sleeping man, and I watched in horror as they kicked him in the legs as hard as they could. They roar with laughter and run like cowards. The old man struggles up yelling and shaking; spitting and cursing.
Ripping through the haze of sleep, he screams: “WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT, WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT YOU MOTHER FUCKERS?” On the curb he stands drooping as they laugh at him from across the street. They don’t know why they did it, they don’t have a clue. And how could they, how many of you have slept on a sidewalk?
I run to the kitchen and grab an orange, I lean out the front door, and I hand it to him as he settles back into bed. “Have it for breakfast, whenever you wake up” I say.
And with sad eyes he looks at me while cradling the fruit in his cracked hands, “I haven’t slept a whole night in two years.”