After he asks for and receives a transfer at Henderson, the end of the line, this kid pauses, asking me, "how's your night goin'?"
It's almost an afterthought. He's got everything he needs. He doesn't have to butter me up or be friendly to get his transfer anymore. No, he's just curious, seeing me as a fellow young person, working on this project called life, and he's inquiring out of nothing more or less than genuine human interest.
"It's goin' GREAT! Thanks for askin'!"
"Haha," he says, sharing in the glow of my enthusiasm. "Keep it up." He offers a fistpound. "Yeeeeah," he adds, almost to himself, walking off happier than he was before.
Later, at Rainier and Bayview:
"How you doin' tonight?" I ask this newcomer, a man in his early twenties.
Excellent word choice, I'm thinking. "Oh, wow! That's great!"
"I just got a delicious Subway* sandwich–" holding up the goods– "from a lovely young Mexican lady who works at the Subway over there. And I got my coffee,"
"What could be better?"
"I know, RIGHT?"
His enthusiasm is infectious. What could be better, indeed. "That sounds fantastic."
"I don't get to speak Spanish very often, but when I do, and when it's with a lady as lovely as that girl over there, well, it feels PRETTY GOOD."
"But she asked me if I go to church, as many of them will do, and,"
"Had to tell her the truth,"
"I had to tell her that I don't,"
"Gotta tell the truth,"
"That's good of you."
"It is what it is."
"But you know, I'm sure you made her night better,"
"Yeah, I told her she was very beautiful and she blushed and smiled, so what more could I ask for?"
"What more could you ask for!" We say the phrase practically in unison. "Exactly!"
Just that glimmer of connection, of the acknowledgement that we're all in this together, and we appreciate each other. It's enough to keep anyone going.
*Don't you love that he wasn't getting a burger at McDonalds? In this post I write, "Everywhere but within the US, a homeless overweight person would be an oxymoron; homelessness inside and outside this country are very different experiences."
The last part of that sentence stems from my experiences abroad, which offered a perspective of such abject horrors as to remind me that, by contrast, homeless populations within urban US cities live like kings. It isn't even a comparison. I realize how insensitive that might initially sound, but truly, we have no idea how good we have it here.
Regarding obesity and the homeless– yes, 1 in 3 homeless are obese, like the rest of America. Of course, weight does not equal wealth; healthy food is generally more expensive, and fast food is often strategically more readily available in impoverished areas, where produce is often of lower quality. Crime, traffic, and unsafe playground equipment reduce opportunities for exercise, and lower-class populations statistically experience greater stress levels, sleep deprivation and more. Further facts and reading here and here.