My Friend From Riverside

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Saturday, August 3rd, 2013, 4:02am
Categories: Mouth Diarrhea


-Freeway overpass
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Image By: Hu Bar | Source
I'm having a weird night. I haven't gotten much done, other than fuck around online and learn the "proper" way to play a new cover song. Too bad I already recorded it the improper way haha.

I've been kind of bummed out the last couple days. I think it might have something to do with singing and playing a song called "I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over Your" over and over again on my guitar, and then accidentally finding a video online of someone who looked like an ex girlfriend. She was someone who got away. Another one of those times when I got scared and broke up too soon, and by the time I had the guts to admit I was wrong, she had already moved on.

Anyway.

So I'm screwing around wasting time on personality tests tonight, and I come across a question about homeless people. It basically asked if someone would tell a homeless person to get a job. I immediately thought that I could see both sides.

I've personally witnessed a homeless man yell at and generally blow up at a nice man, for giving him food instead of money - while the man was holding his 6 year old kid's hand. I've also said no to homeless people asking for money, then lingered just 2 minutes to see them meet up with a buddy to buy booze at a liquor store.

I've also met homeless that seemed very sincere.

It brought back a memory I had forgotten. Back when I lived in Riverside, I used to drive by a specific overpass, where one homeless man in particular always hung out. At first I just drove by, ignoring him and hoping not to make eye contact. Eventually I took a risk and asked him if he'd like some food.

The man happily took the power bar I had planned on eating during work that day. He gave me a smile that made me feel good for a moment. In the months that passed, we developed something that may have resembled a friendship or relationship.

My car usually didn't stop nearby him, and he stood on a divider in the middle of the street that was both long and wide, so my car was usually going at least 10-15 miles per hour by the time I got to him. For awhile I would scramble for any leftover sandwich halves from breakfast I had laying on my passenger seat, or mealbars I had planned for work. Eventually I started thinking ahead and bringing extras for him.

We often said hello, and he always he always made sure to show his gratitude when I had something for him, with a thanks, or a wave, or by opening and eating the food as fast as he could before I drove away.

Once, when I was into Ensure's for a few weeks, I gave him an extra one I had. He yelled down the street "Thanks for the Ensure! Its got lots of good calories for me!" and telegraphed a big "down the hatch!" throwback to show me how much he enjoyed having it.

Eventually I moved away from Riverside, back home with my family, but not before I saw him one last time.

It must have been Christmas season, or a month or two after. It was cold; Freezing even. The rain was coming down pretty hard and the wind would push you back and chap your lips at the same time. It was such a miserable day that I didn't even want to go to work. HA who am I kidding? I never wanted to go to work...

I figured he'd be inside or off somewhere more protected from the weather, but as I drove closer to his little area out in the middle of the street, there he was. Poor guy was wearing a poncho but didn't have an umbrella, and was soaking wet. He had on blue jeans that were soaked to a darker shade of blue all the way through.

He was also shivering to the bone. So bad that I could visibly see his teeth chattering from at least 50 feet away. His arms were moving, his feet were tapping, and he was clearly suffering.

I threw a mealbar at him as I drove by. He knew what my car looked like by then, so he scurried down to grab the food in time to jump back up, just to give me a wave of thanks as I drove off.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm slightly psychotic. Things don't always bother me like I feel they should. But I guess sometimes they do. Other times, I think maybe the memory of my feelings fades faster than other details, so I'm left thinking I was indifferent to some past event. This wasn't one of those times.

I watched his smiling, shivering face fade out into the distance behind me, through my side view mirror. Smaller and smaller until he was just a dot. It bothered me. I felt weird. Like I should have done more for this man, but didn't know how.

I felt.. like.. Fear. Fear on his behalf. For his safety. For the meaning of his life. Fear that he wasn't enjoying his precious years in this world. I thought about it all day and in the weeks that followed. Then for years and years from time to time.

I never saw him again. That was the last time I saw him. Suffering, yet trying so hard to show me his gratefulness. Almost as if he was concerned for MY feelings. Trying his best to show consideration.

I can still see him there that morning, shivering in the rain, and the wind. His grimace overpowering his efforts to smile through chattering teeth.

I wonder where he is and if he is okay.

Kind of makes me tear up just thinking about it now.

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Mike Peralta is an independent musician and you should follow him on Twitter (@MikePeralta) and Instagram (@MikePeraltaMusic), then subscribe to his blog just a bit below this text!
Current avatar photo by Heinz von Bockelmann (CC by 2.0, modified by Mike Peralta)

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