I got off the Skytrain today at Broadway and Commercial. It was a cold day, today. A route, I take, two or three times a week.
I was standing at the light on the corner where 13th crosses Commercial, waiting for it to change. As I stood there looking across the street I noticed a person sitting just off the sidewalk on a grassy spot, against the side of a building. He was sitting on a blanket facing the other way. What caught my attention was the look from other people as they passed him. Most shook their heads. They all kept walking. I clenched the one dollar coin in my pocket, anticipating a poor beggar.
The light changed, I crossed. As I neared this person sitting on the grass his back still towards me, I realized why the people looked away in disgust. He was young, in his twenties. In dirty old clothes. Surrounded by garbage, food wrappers and cigarette butts. His hair mated, long and stringy, his beard also unkempt and stringy. His hands and finger nails black.
He had a piece of rubber wrapped around his arm and had just injected a hypodermic needle into a vein in his forearm. I could actually see the needle sticking into his skin. I stopped and watched him for a moment, amazed he could do that, there of all places, within eye shot of a parked police cruiser, up the street a bit and all the people walking by, the children getting off the buses.
He looked up and saw me standing there, then looked back at what he was doing, indifferent to me, caring less.
I watched as he injected whatever it was from the syringe into his arm. He slowly pulled it out, tossing the used needle and syringe onto the curb. I watched it roll along the edge then drop between the sewer grate and disappear.
He tapped on his arm to promote circulation, then looked up at me, staring back at him in disbelief. He smiled, revealing his rotting teeth as he pushed an upside down baseball cap with a few coins in it towards me. He grabbed a card board sign and held it up for me to read.
HIV, Homeless, and Hungry
I was sad for him. Not because he was HIV or homeless or even hungry. I was more sad for him because he was hopeless.
I said, as I turned to leave.
"Welcome to the 4H Club; HIV, Homeless, Hungry and Hopeless."
I heard him call me a bitch. I kept walking, clenching the dollar coin in my pocket. I hurried into the lottery store and bought a scatch ticket, hoping maybe if I won I could help a person like that.
As it stood, if I would have given him the dollar, all it would have done was help feed his addiction.
Instead I decided to fill mine. Gambling!
I felt good even though I didn't win.
At least I know, I did the right thing.