He owns a CVS shopping cart. He keeps it parked by the bench where he sleeps. The cart seems to serve as his closet, pantry, and treasure chest. His skin looks like worn leather, dark from the endless Florida sun that he rarely gets to escape. His curly brown hair almost reaches his shoulders. His beard makes him look to be around 55 years old.
I see him around four times a week as I sit outside during my lunch break. I feel like I know him but I do not. Today he is pushing his cart along the sidewalk across the street from me; he takes a break from walking each time he hits shade. He has a slight limp.
Four men (twenty or thirty somethings) in suits and ties are walking down the sidewalk toward him. He stops walking and looks at them as they pass. One is wearing sunglasses, they sit just above his eyes but still under his forehead, very noncommittally. I wonder if the man pushing the shopping cart is having a memory as he stops and stares at the men approaching him. Does he have children of his own? Did he have a desk job once upon a time, where he wore a similar suit and tie? Did he envy these men or feel sorry for them? Or was I reading too much into a very ordinary sidewalk situation? Yes, most likely.
As the four men pass the man and his cart, the sunglassed man looks down at his phone. One looks in the exact opposite direction, away from the man’s gaze. The last two are laughing and looking at each other. Once they passed, the man and his cart continued on his way back to his bench.
For some reason, my heart sank. He might not have wanted any acknowledgement, I have no idea. I packed up the rest of my salad, my book, and threw my satchel over my shoulder quickly, so my walk back to work would intersect with the man’s walk to the bench. He looked my way and I looked him in the eye, smiled, and said, “Hi there.” He smiled and nodded back to me.
It made me very aware of how often I do not look at people and acknowledge their presence. Too often, I’m sure. I know when I say hello to customers and they don’t even look my direction, it does make me feel a bit…”less than.” Not an ideal feeling. These are my overly introspective thoughts on the man with the shopping cart. For today.