in the city or anywhere else had prepared him
for the stories they told him or
the chilling matter of fact-ness of their telling,
as though the world that described was
the way the world has always been
as far as they knew would always go on being.
He came to realize that more often than not
their homelessness was not worse than the homes,
if they had ever had any, that they had fled or
be thrown out of a simply seen
fall pieces around their ears.
If the police would not let them sleep
in the subway, they simply moved on to
some boarded- up tenement or public latrine.
If they could get hold of drugs,
they injected oven cleaner, maybe , or
sniffed glue or or gasoline, or
anything else that came their way.
If panhandling did not pay off they stole,or
if they weren't too battered looking,
they found somebody who would pay them
for the use of their bodies and may be even
take them in ,feed them and buy them cloths
and treat them decently for while,
often they would find themselves
a professional who would handle
such transactions for them,
enjoying themselves for free from time to time
and may be literally throwing them out
the window or off a fire escape when
they stopped bringing money.
If they were resourceful ,
they might pick up the price of a meal
by tearing out in to rush hour by traffic
when the lights turned red and swabbing off
wind shields with a wet rag, or
scourging the coin return slots of pay phones.
He suspected that beneath their opaque gaze,
they were asking them selves how
they might be able to make use of him
and wondering , if he in turn was asking
himself how and in what ways
he might be able to make use of them.
A girl would drop her eyes or a boy give
a knowing smile, when there did not seem
to be anything to smile at,and he suddenly
felt something that approached terror.
What terrified him was that
they were all of them for sale.
--- Fredric Buechner.