“There is a homeless man looking at me and please, God, don’t have him come over here,” I typed out in my email to Linda. I was not in the mood to make a new friend or be hit up for a quarter. Besides, he was really dirty and shouldn’t be in the hospital unless he was a patient. He wasn’t.
That was in November and it is now January. He is still there.
I call him DC because that is what is written on his dirty, navy blue tee shirt. He is tall at about 6’2” and thin as a rail. Someone has cropped off his beige hair, but he has a full ragged beard and mustache the color of muddy water. His face is thin and narrow. His eyes are a color I have not seen because he averts them quickly and nervously darts his glance from one thing to another like a person in a constant state of fight or flight mode. Thin lips are covered by facial hair and he makes no expressions. I would guess his age in the late thirties or early forties.
I see him daily in one area of the hospital or another. Last week, he was in the cafeteria nervously circling like a child with ADD. He went in the cafeteria and out again with relative speed as if he had a purpose. His purpose became clear as I watched him cycle through about five more times and noticed he checked the toast area for anything left behind or easy to grab, then passed through the open fruit bar to lift a piece of fruit and then onto the sugar and raisins in which he dipped his hand. All of this in a matter of seconds and then exited and circled back through again and again and again ....
I pointed him out to my companion who believes that just about everything is okay, as long as it doesn’t involve or affect her. I argued he poses a health issue. She countered with her liberal view of “live and let live” as she ordered her oatmeal and went to add the brown sugar and raisins. I casually mentioned a word of caution as he had just dipped his hand in both. She stopped dead, but would not be found out as to her disgust, so took a wee bit of sugar from the back and bottom of the tray. As we walked, I told her to enjoy her breakfast that she kept staring at as if it would suddenly sprout worms and she casually mentioned that perhaps he should be moved on after all.
That evening when I left the hospital it was late, dark, and cold. I saw him walking toward the main street in his navy blue tee shirt and dirty worn out sneakers. “He needs a coat,” I said out loud as I drove past and to home.
I have been thinking about this fellow all weekend. I wonder about the silent world he lives in. He speaks to no one and no one speaks to him. What is his name? Where is his family? Does anyone know this man?
He was once a woman’s little boy. He was once a child in school. He was once a boy who rode a bike and lay in his bed thinking about what it will be like when he is grown up. What a surprise to lose all your dreams and wishes and live in the silent world of the homeless. What is the process that makes you arrive at this destination?
I found a coat that is warm, new, and waterproof and will soon be his. Randy got it for his trip to Alaska and it was never worn and will not ever be missed. I will put some money in the pocket and have one of our male staff members in operations give it to him and suggest he move on. Once the homeless are discovered and know they are being watched, they always disappear. That may sound cruel, but I have patients and diseases and the health and welfare of others to consider. One person can infect an entire hospital as they move through as he does. It is a philosophical dilemma of the value and rights of one as opposed to the rights of the many. One can argue it both ways, but ultimately, you must choose.
I have chosen and DC will have to find a new place to spend his days, months, and years. I will look for him in Randy’s coat moving towards the main street in the dark and hope the universe takes care of him.