I met Jo(h)n outside a subway relatively close to where I live. My wife had gone to a nearby store to buy groceries. I had already finished my errands and was waiting for her to pick me up. Jon is a big guy. He wears a blue sweat suit and a black knit cap. He twirls his mustache and runs one hand down his curling beard while he contemplates what he wants to say.
Contrary to most of my experience with the homeless, it took Jon a little while to warm up to my presence in his area. Several of my attempts at small talk fell flat right away. He wasn’t interested in the weather or the store nearby that had recently closed down. He just wanted to stare into the distance and stroke his beard.
Our conversation bumped along with mumbled one-word answers for several minutes, until he asked me if I had any siblings. I told him about mine, where they live and what they do, and then he became interested. He told me that he had “a whole bunch of” children and grandchildren.
He really wanted to get himself a place to live so he could have family get-togethers again, like they used to do. He hadn’t had much success. John went into a lengthy soliloquy about churches and their signs that had something to do with studios (whether apartments or musical, I wasn’t really sure – John is a musician as well).
Just before my wife came by to pick me up an older gentleman came up to Jon and asked him if he was hungry. John sort of half-shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “I won’t turn down food if you’re offering.”
“How about a meatball sub?” the older man asked.
“Ah, well… I sorta’ wanted to try the pepperoni one.” Jon turned and pointed at the window display decal behind him.
The old man squinted his eyes a bit. “I was going to get a footlong and share half with you. I was coming for a meatball though.”
“Okay.” John said somewhat passively. He waited for the man to walk inside before turning to me and adding, “I had one of those yesterday, and I just wanted to change things up a bit.”