I met some friends in the neighborhood by one of the libraries I go to. One of them is a girl who brings me food if she has extra. She looks out for everyone else. I don't know that she's in a position to initiate change, but the gestures are kind. She is a sweet and caring person. Sometimes she makes sense, and sometimes she knows she doesn't. I am happy when she stops by.
I got back to that area after sunset, and traded wine for food. She doesn't like asking for money, but she usually has a reason to drink. All her friends are always buying each other beer. I've been sharing wine, and usually there's reciprocal food. Or she just gives me food.
The free food from the community center is unparalleled, but I'm not getting up early to go over there myself. I do my camp stove thing. A bottle of wine costs two dollars. The price tags on the food are usually more than eight dollars. Most of it comes from a health food store.
She introduced me to her other friends. They all go by aliases and nicknames. Not a single one of them has a happy background. We sat around behind the Thai place. We ate some of the fancy food. We drank wine and beer and we talked.
One guy was a master of jokes. Sometimes he'd warn you that a joke would be colorful - then he would proceed to tell the joke, and I'd be wondering which part was supposedly offensive. He's old and fat and sunburned. I've only seen him with a great big grin. It seems like decades ago, he was probably smart and normal. He still is, actually, in a way - except now he drinks Hurricanes and sleeps in construction sites. I wonder if his sense of reality has shifted. I've often wondered about my own.
All the guys in this circle drink Hurricane. Most of them start in the morning. Sometimes they steal a bag of them. Sometimes they pay with sweaty crumpled cash.
Another guy there has lived in that neighborhood all his life. Compared to this one, nobody else seemed drunk. He was always raising his volume. They were always trying to get him to calm down. He kept threatening to kill himself. He sat down and puked, and only clear liquid came out. They tried to get him to eat. He demanded another beer. He threw money at them. He is not allowed in the store. My closest friend in the group, the girl, was in charge of making decisions. I went and got corn chips and the small can of bean dip. She was hoping he would at least eat that. Simply put, he's a mess.