There he goes again.
I watch from my office window as a man in faded blue jeans limps across the street using a crooked stick for a cane. He wears a straw hat over a mess of grey hair. From this distance, it is hard to tell if he is wearing his teeth, but it seems unlikely. In his free hand, he carries a plastic bag from the gas station. The bag contains his sickness and the cure.
I am surprised to see the man return so soon after the bitter cold of winter, certain that he resettled in the south, retired and resigned from a life of struggle on the street. Then like a bird of spring, he suddenly returned and resumed his daily activities as though there was never any interruption.
Most mornings, the man leaves his nest of dirty blankets and plastic bags and travels across the street to fuel up on cigarettes, cheap booze, and a pack of peanuts or crackers. He returns to doze in the comfort of his makeshift home until he runs out of supplies and is forced to make the trek once again. Sometimes he is gone for long stretches of time. I like to think he made it to the mission for a hot meal and a few days off the street or is visiting with an old friend rather than the more likely truth that he was arrested for public intoxication or hospitalized for seizures.
Time and time again, he returns. Unchanged and uncompromised. Always limping and always with the hat.
He is surviving off of the elements, earth, wind, air and fire, and asks for nothing more. Yet, the people around him refuse to accept his decision to live and die in the alley behind an abandoned building. He remains at odds with these concerned neighbors. They want him housed and sober, in treatment, at the least. They want him to sleep in a bed and eat nutritious meals, to be warm and safe.
Meanwhile, he is determined to drink himself to death, programmed to self-destruct by a wicked and powerful hand. He is centered and focused on a course that is difficult to change; it is one that he is not interested in diverting from and next to impossible for his concerned neighbors to understand. While they scheme to bring him in, coordinating agencies and professionals in the effort, they forget to look up at my spring bird.
He needs freedom, dignity and is one of the rare few who has not forgotten how to fly.
There he goes again.