Today he was back at the Day Center. It should have been clear all along that Paco was never going anywhere.
The doctors in Ohio finally figured out what everyone here already knew. As Paco put it, his drawl exaggerated, "I indulge a bit too much."
In a few weeks, he's gone from playing the caring brother with the life-saving tissue match to the black sheep with fuck-up embedded in his DNA. It's hard to tell from his shrug if he feels he let his sister down. On the surface, he seems relieved, but not about avoiding the surgery. I wonder if contemplating this good thing challenged him to reconsider his entire sense of worth. If he made this sacrifice, then would people expect him to continue as a solid citizen? What would he be called upon to do next? Now excused but able to take credit for his willingness, he can go back to being the old Paco—genial, even-tempered and floating beyond the bounds of responsibility.
I can't know this, probably have no business even speculating about him, but you can't can't work here and not root for the redemption of everyone who walks through the door. And when it doesn't quite work out that way, you can't allow yourself to feel disappointment. It doesn't help our guests to come here and run into more people they've let down.
We found Victor.
A call finally came back from the hospital where we was, and he had not lost his foot after all.
Since family ties get so stressed by homelessness, it seems like a good sign that his kids are coming to take him back to Delta.
Ron and Don came in today, riding motorcycles. I hadn't seen the twins for a year, not since they were featured in a story on panhandling by a local TV station. They weren't very truthful the first time the reporter came around, which didn't help their credibility the next time he saw them and suggested they were raising money under false pretenses.
In the video, Ron maintained he wanted to work, but would rather live on the street than take a $6-an-hour job to put gas in their camper generator. Don fretted about losing coverage for his bi-polar meds.
Now Ron is working again and Don is hanging out at home. They both looked pretty good, and that may be why they decided to come by today.
But as I've seen again and again, appearances here don't mean much from one week to the next.
Last week's tale of the skunk passing through Robert's camp became a parable of homelessness for me. I thought all week about the man who smelled the skunk coming but couldn't shrink from it, so he got to know it. One outcast comforted another as fear gave way to curiosity and then acceptance.
I was looking forward to seeing Robert again, able to greet him now as an acquaintance.
He came late, after the showers and the laundry had shut down and the coffee pot was down to the dregs. Most guests had left and I was mopping the shower room floors. He was red faced and slow, like any movement was painful.
He asked if he was in the way, if he was bothering us, and I said, no, he was why we were here. He moved over to make a phone call and then I thought he'd left until he approached me at the shower room door.
Can you help me out, Charlie?
I knew what he wanted, but I asked anyway: What kind of help?
I'm out of money. Have you got four bucks for cigarettes?
This was the first time I'd been asked directly for money in the Day Center. I wanted to help him, of course. His story was worth more than four bucks to me, but the money wouldn't help, whether it went to cigarettes or a bottle.
I can't, I said. We're not supposed to give people money in here.
Okay, I understand. Where can you? I can meet you in the back. Or outside. I don't have anything.
I give my time here. That's how I try to help everyone. I can't play favorites and give you money, I'm sorry.
Once I gave in to my kinder impulses, the requests wouldn't stop. I'd become a cash machine, where guilt pushed the buttons.
Maybe Robert was looking forward to seeing me, too.