“Dude, I can help you with that,” one man is leaning over another seated man filling out an online registration form for homeless services at one of the public library’s computers.
At the adjacent computer terminal, I drop into a chair to check email. My skin is prickly from the long, hot walk to the library, and I am looking like a boiled lobster while trying hard not to overhear the conversation next to me.
“I got it bro,” the response comes. “But, thanks for the help. Hey, man, you know about this place?” the seated man asks gesturing to the screen.
“Yeah, they got a ten-o’clock curfew. That’s alright. What I don’t like is the showers and beds and sh*t. They’s all communal. I ‘m real clean. I can hardly stand to shower there, let alone sleep. I got to get me a job, so I can have my own place—my own shower. You hear me? Family sent me ahead, ya see?” (There is a formal recounting of all of the immediate and extended family members relying on this man’s ability to find and retain employment.)
“Yeah, yeah. I hear, ya. Who’d ya say was hiring?”
“There’s that warehouse. They’s taking applications. Do you need me to help you with that? I can help you. I got me a bar of soap and found a stream.
Cleaner washing in that stream than some of those places. I know they [the local Christian charities] mean well—but germs, man, I’m really funny ’bout germs. Family is counting on me. You see what I’m sayin’ bro?”
“Yeah. I got it,” the seated man replies. “Thank you, though.”
“I’ll catch you later.” The other man moves away, returning to perch on one of the library’s high stools facing the windows looking out onto the pedestrian traffic on the street.
Exhaling, I finish my computer session, grateful for the home I have. Gathering my things together, I exit the building to breathe the hot, heavy air and begin my walk home. I consider how alone the man with the extended family must feel, I hope Grace keeps him safe.