Whenever I see him and he is not asleep, I ask him how he is doing. He gives me a smile from here to Tokyo. “As always. WONDERFUL!”. He has a twinkle in his eyes that I rarely see in the faces I meet. His clothes are neat, he wears two jackets, a shirt, a woolen sweater, good pants and an almost new pair of CAT boots.
John has many friends. He is so sincere, everybody likes him. Passers by and people from shops bring sandwiches and warm meals. John is very clear about things. When one morning I wanted to offer something to eat, he rather had a drink. “I have a confession to make. I’m an alcoholic.” He knows he drinks too much, and that this is the reason why his health is not at its best. But he is strong, and when he gets up to show me his real life size, I am impressed: he is about 2m20, a big bear!
John is also very clear about not wanting to go to a shelter or a home. Not even when we reach -20°. What we call ‘cold’ just makes him laugh. He has known -40°: what cold?! He stays outside, it is his choice. He shows me ‘his’ street, and I immediately look at it with different eyes. Waving his arm, he declares with pride: “THIS,.. this is my living room.” John does not want material things. He likes to say: “I want to rest my mind”, and I believe him. John has travelled around the world, he has had a full life. Maybe a bit too full. It reminds me of the Vietnam Veterans.
Not a hair on my head would dare ‘teach John a lesson’, about the ‘superiority’ of a house, working, not drinking. Au contraire! John inspires my deepest respect. He found the healthiest way for him to deal with HIS life, and he finds the ‘rest’ his mind needs.
John has his own rules, his own privacy. (I feel like each time I go talk with him, I tread carefully by his improvised living room, as if I should knock on a door first, and see if he wishes to talk.) I asked John if he wished to write something, but when I did, he already told me what he wished to say. 🙂
He ends his story on a powerful conclusion. Please take a moment to understand these words: “You can take a man out of the street, but you can not take the street out of the man.”