Sorry for the delay in posting this week. I appreciate all of your emails checking to see if I was ok! I have been swamped at work, so I got behind.
Day 306 was was my father’s 70th birthday. We took him to a restaurant near my house called Nora’s which has the distinction of being the first certified organic restaurant in the United States.
After our delicious dinner my father went with me to search the neighborhood for a $10 recipient. Just a few blocks away along Connecticut Avenue we spotted a man inching his way down the street. We would later find out that his slow gait was due to broken ankles and broken knees.
I stopped him and asked if he would accept the $10. From beneath his black hooded rain poncho he spoke softly saying that he would accept my gift. I proceeded to ask him a few questions but he said he was not comfortable answering any personal questions and did not want any photographs taken of him. He offered to give them money back and I explained that the money was his to keep.
He was an African-American man who I suspected was in his 60s. despite his slow walk he appeared in good health. He had a stark white beard that seemed to block the words from getting out. “I also have a dislocated organ,” he told us pointing to the left side of his abdomen. Neither of us asked him to explain further.
He clenched the $10 in his worn hands. I could see the dirt that had settled underneath his long fingernails.
“You can call me John I guess,” he told me in a way that I knew that wasn’t his real name. John said I looked familiar and I thought for a moment that I might have already given my $10 to him earlier in the year, but after I spoke with him for a few minutes I was sure that I had not met him before.
I told him that it was Dad’s 70th birthday. “He’s got good skin,” he said in response. He also said something about my father’s eyes. I think he said that they were still well aligned, but Dad thinks he said that they were “alive.” In either case, he made some nice comments about my dad.
John says that he tries to write every day. “Well, when it’s warm I come right here and write on these benches but when it gets cold I find a place indoors.” I asked what he liked to write about and he explained that he had a book about verbs and he practiced making sentences where he put the verbs together with various statements.
He was carrying two plastic bags that contained some personal items. He showed us bottles of multi-vitamins and Ensure. “I take 3 multi-vitamins a day; I usually try to take them six hours apart however yesterday I took all three at the same time.” He went on to say that every other day he drank a small bottle of Ensure. “When I have a little extra money I usually spend it on vitamins or maybe a book.”
Since the conversation had circled back to money I decided to ask him what he planned on using the $10 for. “To survive,” he said. “I’m just going to use it to survive.”
The 42 bus rolled up and he said he was getting on. He gave us both a fist bump and started inching his way toward the bus. It took him a few minutes, but sure enough he got on and the bus pulled away disappearing into the traffic at Dupont Circle.