The profound sadness of living in a city

There is a man who stands outside the Park Street T entrance right on the Boston Common. He is always shaven, dressed in a black windbreaker, carrying a backpack which always has a water bottle tucked into it. He carries a cardboard sign that says “My son and I are homeless” and that’s when I can’t stand to keep reading. His eyes are weary and the gray in his hair is obviously premature.

I had change on me today, thank goodness. Cents and nickels and dimes, but it is enough to ease the helplessness a little. I am guilty and i feel guiltier writing this, but it’s easier than wishing him a good day and ending compassion at that.

“How’re you doing today?”
“It’s a little cold actually – thank you.” (I dropped my shitty nickels into his cup)
“It definitely got chillier, take care.”

He was shivering outside.

He just passed me as I wait for my train home. He is counting money and looks determined, but I can’t unsee the tired look in his eyes. I don’t know where he is going, but I hope his son is with someone he trusts.

I hate that I almost exclusively use my debit card and that I rarely have spare change. I hate the tone of this entire blog post.

There are a lot of people down on their luck near where I work, the Financial District, close to beautiful Beacon Street and its wealthy occupants. Almost all have cardboard signs. A couple are younger than me at my almost 21 years. I’ve been working at my co-op since January, and I have seen a lot of new faces.

I hate the walk to and from work, through Downtown Crossing, just along the edges of the Common. I hate that my commiseration means nothing in the grand scheme of things because I am a non-resident alien in a system that only just caters to me because of my tuition dollars. I hate the uselessness of my “Have a good day, take care” even when it is accompanied with the brassy sound of coins against coins (or coins against an empty solo cup).

This isn’t preaching. This isn’t a call to mobilize. This isn’t me lamenting my privilege or reflecting on how lucky I am. The politics of space is an ugly sphere and I know not what my role in it is.

I am sad whenever I walk to the train home and that sadness means nothing.

I need to start asking for cash-back for more than laundry money.

I hope that man’s son is doing okay.

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