Welcome back to Member Monday! Today we feature a piece by Writers Forum member Deborah Gilson.
by Deborah Gilson
Life would be critical if I didn’t get another bunch of bananas today. I needed one to take to the YMCA for that night’s work out. I moseyed into Safeway for all the items on my list, paid for them and walked out.
I noticed a handsome man in his early 20s sitting on the sidewalk holding a sign reading: Hungry and Homeless. I grabbed a banana from my bag, walked over and sat down next to him, “Hi, I’m Debbie. Wanna banana?” He gently took the banana from my hand, peeled back the skin and said, “Thank you, Debbie. I’m Cory.”
Curiosity took over and it wasn’t long before I asked about his plight and how he’d become homeless. He said he’d been married and his wife’s father owned the apartment complex where they lived. Once they divorced, Cory was told to leave and explained he couldn’t afford the rent on his own. I asked whether he could get a room-mate for another unit and he said he wasn’t from the area and therefore, didn’t have anyone he could ask. He said his biggest lesson is he relied only on his efforts with his wife believing they’d be together forever.
I asked whether he could save up money from where he worked and he let me know he worked for his former father-in-law who let him go. He confessed after so many personal set-backs, he sunk into a deep depression and only had the energy to sit with a sign.
Cory said he didn’t have a place to shower and by now it was no longer the first thing on his mind anymore. I told him he was a decent looking person who only needed a little touch-up. He smiled and exposed the whitest, straightest, cleanest teeth in a most brilliant smile. My eyes flew open wide and he pulled out a toothbrush from his back pocket. I told Cory his teeth would get him through his darkest hour.
I handed Cory a $20.00 dollar bill and said I really didn’t care what he did with the money, however, I suggested he purchase an inexpensive, disposable, plastic razor. I told him to keep his blond hair combed and out of his eyes. I gave him a laundry list of things to keep in the forefront of his mind and to sit up straight when holding his sign.
Cory gave me an education in the hour we sat shoulder-to-shoulder. I told him I’d wondered since I was a child how people became homeless. I’d seen panhandlers in the streets of San Francisco since I was high enough to see out the back window of my mother’s car. Ross, my younger brother, and I would push out button noses to the window and watch them as our car drove past. Cory needed only one person to believe he was worth being a part of functioning society again.
I told him I’d come by next week and I’d better not find him sitting here because I knew he was going to make it. After my workout at the Sequoia YMCA the next week, I slowly drove into the Safeway parking lot fearing I’d see Cory sitting there still, however, his spot on the sidewalk was vacant. Although I was disappointed not to have another visit, I was relieved he knew someone believed in him.
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