Epitaph

Ah, 2022. We keep thinking we’re going to get a break, but that certainly doesn’t yet appear to be on the horizon. After years of covid and the cult of Qrump, war in the Ukraine feels like such a dirty trick. So much of this feels like a dirty trick.

I have been immersed in a spiritual narrative for quite a long time, which I have mentioned here often, in which I am told and have believed that we are moving from 3D energy into a more aware and enlightened 5D. Which means that all of the pain and chaos that people are currently experiencing is a clearing of dense energies that need to go in order to make that happen.

But I don’t give a shit anymore. I just don’t. When I think about lives and a country being destroyed to assuage one madman’s ego, about all of the greedy madmen like him operating with abandon, and all of the similar things that I don’t see on the news that are happening around the world, I just feel rage. Rage toward whatever god or “source” or collective consciousness or grand scheme that has deemed it all “necessary” and continues to drag its feet on righting its plentiful wrongs.

It’s too much. It’s simply too much for me to continue to bask in the luxury of confidence in some kind of vague promise for a future that has not appeared. I don’t want to believe in anything at all right now because it hurts too much to hope. For now I feel duped by that train of thought. I don’t want to ponder the universe anymore. The cosmos can go suck a bag of dicks. I simply want to do my best to be compassionate in whatever circumstances surround me and hope that that makes my pocket of the universe a little more bearable for the people in the vicinity.

A man I knew and cared about was murdered this last weekend. He was homeless and I didn’t know his name.

For those of you not in NYC, it’s bananas here right now. The homeless are legion and completely out of control. People are being stabbed and shot daily, a woman had poop smeared in her face while she waited for a train in broad daylight, people are being pushed to their death on tracks, hate crimes toward Asian people are off the charts, a well-known and much loved vocal coach, who was a friend of many of my friends, was pushed to the ground for no reason. Her brain was damaged beyond repair and she died a day or two later. She was 87 and simply walking down the street. No rhyme or reason, just random, devastating violence.

I want to tell you about the man I knew.

I moved into my current neighborhood at the start of 2019, right before covid hit. I live very near Canal Street, which is a highly trafficked thoroughfare in Chinatown. It’s full of tourist shops carrying phone cases, t-shirts and keychains, jewelry shops with glittering diamonds in the windows, and Chinese women and men hawking fake designer bags. I love it, it’s classic high energy NYC, although I don’t go near it during peak hours because it’s impossible to get around the gawking families who don’t understand how sidewalk etiquette works here.

I saw this man the first day I walked the dog down Canal. He was a big guy, black, with very dark skin and gray, matted dreads. He had a sweet, round face and it occurred to me that he’d make an awesome black Santa. He sat very still on a folding chair, leaning a bit on the wall behind him with a wheeled suitcase parked next to him. He didn’t react to the bustling activity around him, just stared straightforward into the traffic.

I walk my dog two or three times a day, so I saw him often. After a few days I started waving hello. He didn’t seem particularly interested in engaging, but he would wave back politely. Slowly we progressed to saying hi or good morning. When covid hit hard I began giving him money. There was no one on the street and every business was closed, so I wondered and worried on how he would survive.

But survive he did. He would sit still all day in various spots around the neighborhood, and at dusk he would roll his suitcase away to hunker down for the night. I marveled at the sheer physical punishment of it. What would it feel like to sit so still all day on a folding chair and then sleep on the hard, frozen ground all night? My back ached just thinking about it.

He called me “Lady”. He’d say, “Hello, Lady. How are you doing today?”

I would say, all nosy and annoying like the aging white woman that I am–

“I’m great! Are you okay? Do you need anything? Are you going to be warm enough tonight?”

He would respond with a smile and say, “Fine, fine. I don’t need anything. You have a nice night.”

Despite the fact that I would occasionally see him looking in garbage cans, he never asked and always looked a little surprised when I handed him cash. He was consistently the same quiet, stoic man. I wondered, why is he out here? He’s not high or acting crazy, he’s well-spoken and clearly intelligent. How did he fall through the cracks?

One day I saw another man give him a haircut, which he needed as his dreads were one big mass. The man doing the cutting was dressed well and I could tell the act was one of charity and kindness. It made me happy to know that other people in the neighborhood helped him out. I heard that local restaurants fed him too.

Sometimes he would sit across the street from my building and I would wonder if he saw me hanging out on my balcony typing on the laptop or drinking coffee. The disparity in our situations was not lost on me, but I didn’t know what to do about it. I wanted to wave but that didn’t feel right somehow, so I just went about my business.

It was my intention, when things got warmer, to take the time to ask for his story. I wanted to know how he got on the street, if he was from somewhere else (he seemed to have a slight accent), and what I could do for real, if anything. He was good at deflecting the occasional probing question, so it seemed that he was not interested in volunteering much information. I enjoyed our repoire and I didn’t want to make him feel exposed or put on the spot, and I was unsure of how to proceed. I pretended not to see when he looked in garbage cans, and continued to exchange our usual pleasantries when we passed, figuring I’d have more time to wear down his defenses.

Meanwhile, the homeless situation is raging and it’s violent and dirty and scary. We are all walking and taking the train without headphones these days, on constant high alert for danger. It has crossed my mind that some of these assholes just need to be taken out. Like poop smearing guy, who has been in and out of jail for violent offenses and is unrepentant and vicious in court– just a rabid, reprehensible individual. But then I would remember MY gentle, vulnerable homeless friend, and remind myself that it’s not helpful to think that way.

Early Monday morning a crossing guard that I am friendly with said, “Did you hear? The homeless man that was shot near here was the quiet man.”

I asked, “OUR guy? The man with the suitcase?”

She said yes, and my heart cracked. I felt hot tears in my eyes, She told me that they knew more about it in the cafe down the street if I wanted to ask. I cry at the drop of a hat these days, so I took some deep breaths and pushed my rising emotions down to be able to ask without blubbering. Another neighbor walking her dog said hi and I shakily told her what I’d heard and that I was going to check. I stepped into the cafe and asked, and the owner nodded his head sadly. It was indeed our guy.

I stepped back out and told the waiting neighbor. We both waved goodbye because we were too overcome to speak any further.

He was shot in the head in the early hours of the morning while he was quietly asleep in his sleeping bag laid out on the cardboard he carried with him. The man who shot him was seen on camera kicking him first to check if he was awake. It wasn’t discovered that he was dead til many hours later. He laid dead on the street with people walking past for the better part of the day.

The next night I attended a high end shopping/showing event for McQueen. It was fabulous and the attendees were lovely. It was a privilege to be there and Wendy, always generous, bought me a gorgeous bag that I will cherish forever. But I had a moment, as I stood there with my glass of champagne, surrounded by beautiful, expensive people admiring beautiful, expensive things, where I felt an urge to smash everything in front of me. To tear it all down, break everything to bits, pull the expensive curtains off the walls, kick the glass shelves into oblivion and then simply sit in the middle of it weeping. In that moment it all seemed vapid and so deeply, devastatingly, horribly unfair.

I take comfort in the fact that he most likely didn’t feel or know what was happening. I take comfort knowing that he will not be sleeping on the sidewalk anymore. But I am also so very sad that this was his end. He deserved a more respectful finale. He deserves to have his name in the press and that has not happened. Maybe they don’t know. For now he is just one of the many homeless people murdered for no reason other than they are easy targets.

I’m writing this down so there is one obituary out there for him. Every time I have walked the dog this week I have thought about how I will never see him again or have an opportunity to know him better. He was such a lovely being with a pleasing face and calm voice that always cheered me. He harmed no one. I wish I knew his name. Why didn’t I at least ask him his name?

One of my door persons told me he’s been in the neighborhood for a very long time, at least a decade. She said he got a little erratic at one point and then disappeared for a year. Then he came back and was his usual quiet self again. She thinks that he had mental health issues and was on a medication that calmed him. She guessed that maybe he had gotten so accustomed to living outside that he preferred it. He certainly seemed to be much less bothered by his situation than I.

He was a part of my day to day life and in my own way I loved him. I’ll never forget him and I am pretty sure that other people in the area feel the same. His life and death make me acutely aware that the homeless are not vermin, but people with all the same feelings and needs that the rest of us have, in more difficult and complicated circumstances. There but for the grace of God and all that. I don’t know what the answer is, but I know it begins with that understanding.

I don’t need condolences, which I know many you kind people will want to extend. I am fine and live a blessed life. I just want to let the world know of his life, to the extent that I knew it, and his passing.

I wish you all safety and peace in this very difficult time in our history.

UPDATE:

A few days after my post The NY Times published an article about all the men involved. My friend’s name was Abdoulaye Coulibaly. I find their demand for cash in order to read infuriating, but if you have a subscription it’s a well written and researched article. The main takeaway for me was that he did have family who tried to get him off the street, but it was his choice to stay. So that was a relief. He had people who cared and he knew it. And now he has a name and a history for the world to see.

Author: Raffaele

Rock and roll juggernaut, writer, muse, animal lover, Cycle Slut from Hell, friend, lover, sister, daughter, nerd, fagwoman, Slytherin, killer queen.

One thought on “Epitaph”

  1. Raff,
    I know the feeling all too well. The helplessness. The urge to tear everything down and throw it all away, for after all, it’s all just “things.” I make a concerted effort to help when possible and I donate both items and money to many sanctuary farms, animal rescue groups, and individuals here and there who’ve fallen upon a hard situation. We can only hope that many more reach out with the same compassion and consideration.

    Liked by 1 person

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