Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Nation, Homeless in Oklahoma City

Commentary by Al Griffin

Staggering along with a large pack and sacks over his arm, a small, middle-aged man approached me on the sidewalk. He did not look at me as we met, but as soon as I spoke, he broke into a smile and stuck out his fist for a bump. His street name is Nation, he explained, but offered no information about why.

Disposable, a Photo by Al Griffin
We talked for several minutes, and he seemed confused and lost.  He confessed he did not follow his meds routine closely some days. Like many fellows on the street, he seemed reluctant to share much personal information. When I asked how long he had been living on the street he said “too long” and left it at that. He evaded direct answers about where he was born also. “Let’s just say I was born in another state and they are not friendly” was the only answer.

He did start taking money out of his pockets and counting it, talking about the high price of good beer and lamenting the fact he needed to stick with cheap brands. I offered enough to make up the difference, and he smiled broadly and gave another fist bump.

We talked a long time, and he was very polite. He seemed to enjoy the time, but did not want his photo taken. He explained that as a private citizen, he enjoyed his right to privacy, but if he became a movie star, he would have no privacy.  Nation further shared his views on street life, but was becoming less clear and lucid as our time progressed.

He showed genuine gratitude for the help in upgrading his beer purchase and offered a parting fist bump. Nation appeared to have arrived at the point where nothing existed beyond beer and endless walking. Even life on the streets has varying degrees of misery, and Nation had reached the lower levels it seemed: hopelessness.

Nearby I found a sign that said unattended items would be disposed of quickly. Lying asleep beside the sign was a homeless woman. I did not disturb her, but thought the image told a sad tale in a city where so many are on the streets.