Yesterday I was walking down the street when I saw a hat. It was tied to the top of a church fence, which isn’t too abnormal — except I noticed the hat because it used to be mine.
Four years ago, I went to a Kansas City Royals baseball game. It wasn’t for the actual game — it was for this one-of-a-kind trucker hat giveaway. But I never wore it because trucker hats are meant to be ironic and I’m not the ironic type. So all these years, the mesh hat hung on my wall as decoration.
About the same time I was at that baseball game, a Bronx man came home from work and discovered that his wife took their kids and ran away. The man had a mental breakdown and, soon, he was homeless.
His name is Kev and, as of two weeks ago, he was still on the streets. I’ve talked to a lot of homeless guys, but Kev was, by far, the nicest of them all — polite, humble and appreciative. Once, he even tried to buy me a bagel.
Anyway, two weeks ago, I found him sprawled out on the street, with New Yorkers tip-toeing around him. I sat him up on the church fence, and I asked, “What’s wrong?”
“I was at a shelter last night,” he said, “and someone stole everything I got.”
I asked him what he lost, and he said mostly clothes. So I ran back to my apartment and filled a bag with shirts, pants, socks, underwear, fresh fruit and a blanket. After all, as my mom says, it’s all just “stuff” — all replaceable. On the way out, I saw my trucker hat hanging on the wall, and that’s just “stuff” too, so I shoved in the bag.
Kev thanked me for everything — especially the hat. But then he said, “Man, I can’t do this much longer. I want to give up on life.”
I remember telling him he shouldn’t give up. I remember saying I had to go to bed. I remember leaving.
There are apparently things I’m willing to give up, like clothes, food and money — you know, “stuff.” But I guess I’m not willing to give anything more.
Maybe it requires too much vulnerability. I’m not sure.
Anyway, I haven’t seen Kev since that day. I hope he comes back for his hat.