October 9, 2008

His name was Joe. An unremarkable name for someone who dared to live remarkably.

His name was Joe and he played his guitar every Saturday at the corner of 5th and Sundance during the open market- trying to scavenge pennies, nickels, dimes. He slept on, sometimes under, empty park benches. Everyday, Joe pushed his Albertson’s cart, filled with aluminum cans, and the one extra flannel shirt he had. Joe took nothing for granted. Every scrap fed to him, every dime in his case, every can in his shopping cart…They were all necessities for his survival. Every night was a success. Every day was a blessing.

His name was Joe, and on this particular day, he was walking past some of the local shops. He saw his reflection in the glass. The top of his head reached about 6’5”, but he remained slender. He always had been skinny, he recalled. Even before he lost his home and his job to drugs; he remembered the kids at school called him “Bones”. His thoughts were interrupted by a tick crawling up his face, out of his scraggled beard. He looked in the glass once more. Joe observed his hair next. There were bugs, he knew, but they needed a place to stay as much as he did. A passerby would notice the grime, the oil and the dirt that continuously caked Joe’s skin and nails. A passerby would notice how his hair was long, yet uneven like the edges of a serrated bread knife. They would notice how dirty his beard was-- and how it resembled an old man’s beard-- like Dumbledore or Santa. However, a stranger would not notice how his eyes shimmered like the sea just after a storm, or how his nails, although long and nasty, were perfectly shaped. They would not notice the details of his skin…. It glistened, but not in the desired way in the world of celebrities. His skin was so inflamed with oil that all it could do was shine like a dirty quarter. If he had lived in Virginia, they might have thought that he spent his time working in the coal mines.
His name was Joe and for the past four years he had lived on the streets. The ladies at the homeless shelter knew him by name, as did the people at the recycling center. People knew him, liked him, but refused to hire him. No one could get over the fact that Joe was once an addict. To them: All homeless people were addicts, and addicts were never cured. Yet, for the past three years, Joe was clean.

His name was Joe and last Saturday he hit the jackpot. It was in the last hour of the market, when someone dropped the big one. It meant nothing to Joe at the time, just that someone had been kind enough to support him. As he gathered his belongings in his shopping cart, he noticed the white, thick, paper. A completely filled out lottery ticket.

His name was Joe, and for the first time in what seemed an eternity, he did not have to live in the depths of the city any longer. Joe was the proud owner of more than three quarters of a million dollars--after taxes. The sun had finally shined upon Joe. His life no longer needed to be spent wandering from park to park, dumpster to dumpster. Finally, an escape from life on the streets. Finally, someone had faith in Joe

His name was Joe, and he died on Sunday.

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