Last week Greg came up to me at the Day Center and asked if I was good with clippers.
We keep at least one set of hair clippers on hand for beard trimming and haircuts, but usually the men do it themselves or get help from another of our homeless clients. They spread a garbage bag on the floor of the vestibule and cut away. The only rule is they have to clean up after themselves.
But since Greg asked, I said yes. (I used to cut hair in college for the price of a pack of cigarettes, but in those days didn't give the kind of haircut he wanted — Marine-style, high and tight — so he could look for a job.)
His hair was thick but clean and I took it all the way down. When I was finished, it looked about like this guy's but without the gel. Greg's eyes are even the same diluted olive color, but have the disconcerting effect of neither one aiming at you when he's talking to you straight on.
Today, he was back in. When he saw me, he lifted his cap. He'd grown a little stubble that was the same length as his sidewalls and it looked pretty good.
I asked him if he'd found a job.
Yes, he said. I'm washing dishes at the college for $8 an hour. Sedexo said they'd lay me off in May, but if I'm good, they'll hire me back in the fall.
We talked as he looked over the book shelf.
I've read this one, he said, and pulled it out: The Alcoholics Anonymous bible. I finished it ten years ago and haven't had a drink since.
That may be true, but judging from the decomposed granite ridge of his teeth, some other substances may have crossed his path in the years since.
Greg is busy crocheting a baby blanket for a homeless couple. He showed me the three rows, straight and tight, like you'd expect an ex-Marine to do, if you expected a homeless ex-Marine to be crocheting baby blankets. The woman who runs the yarn shop gives him free yarn, he said. Nice German lady.
It's for the black couple that comes in here, he said. They're amazed how quickly things are coming together for them.
(I know them. They always tell me how they are blessed.)
Greg pulls down a book on fitness. I ought to read this, he said. I'm getting older and I need to keep my... he searched for the word.
Fitness, I offered.
Yeah, he said. I weigh 185, but I don't look it because muscle weighs more than fat. I walk places a lot. A lot of us do. A woman told me the other day, boy, you homeless people really take good care of yourselves.