He was unshaven, wearing a ripped overcoat, crouched at the intersection. Disgusting! Hoping the light would change I turned, purposefully avoiding eye contact. I shuttered, then snatched another look. Humph. Something was familiar. What was it?…
I pulled my Persol’s from the overhead compartment of my ‘66 Lamborghini and tossed back my hair. Aaah! The cover of darkness. Better for a lingering glance. The same man I had seen before. Maybe I ought to give him some money. He looks so… HONK!
“I’m goin! I’m goin!”
Years spent in ivy league schools, and a partner in one of the country’s most prestigious legal firms left me unaccustomed to this thing called homelessness. But, I couldn’t get him out of my mind. Maybe a contribution to a homeless shelter...
“Mornin Em. Good weekend?”
“Um, yeah. Morning Louise.”
“You alright? You seem a bit scattered.”
“Sorry. I’m alright. Just thinking about something.”
“Oh it’s probably just my imagination. Louise, you ever been near Fifth Avenue?”
“What in the world are you doin in that neighborhood, Emily?”
“It’s for the client I’m due in court with tomorrow morning.”
“The Murphy case?”
“Yeah. Louise, I keep seeing this homeless guy. He’s everywhere I am. The same guy. Looks a lot like Mr. DeNiro.”
“Our boss, DeNiro?”
“Yeah. Creepy, huh?”
“You bet it is.”
Crisp autumn evenings rushed in frigid days of winter. I glanced at the thermometer on the dash. 8 F - eight degrees. For the second week in a row temperatures weren’t breaking single digits. I exited the ramp with caution, tapped my breaks, fishtailed and fought the wheel the remainder of the way, coming to a sideways halt under the bridge. He was there…again, in the company of three more “of his kind,” huddled around a trash barrel - looking to set it on fire no doubt.
Same ripped overcoat. No hat. No gloves. Jolted off his feet by a sudden gust of wind, his buddies helped him up. He gripped his collar and turned away. In the rear mirror I watched him shiver.
No shelter or blankets? Poor people. I’m freezing and I’m in a warm car. Someone should help. Maybe I should be that someone…
“Mr. DeNiro, good morning.”
“How’s the Murphy case coming?”
“Still in litigation but, alright. Just a matter of formalities.”
“Well, if you need anything just…”
“Mr. DeNiro could I tell you something, well, kinda funny?”
“I’ve seen this same homeless guy now well, more than a few times. I find myself worrying about him, wanting to do something to help him. It seems he’s always where I am, and here’s the crazy thing. He looks… never mind. It’s crazy.”
“Well, he looks a lot like you. Sorry. I told you it was crazy.”
He closed my office door, stood motionless, his back towards me.
“Mr. DeNiro? Are you alright?”
“Emily, what I am about to say, I have told no one else. Let‘s keep this between us, shall we?”
“I AM that man you‘ve seen. Your hunch was right. Long ago, years before I started this firm, I had, lets just say, an uncomfortable experience.”
“Mr. DeNiro, I...”
“Just listen, please. My parents died when I was fifteen. With no living relatives I turned to the streets. That was the best -“uncomfortable” time of my life.”
“I don’t understand. What do you mean best - uncomfortable?”
“I learned to survive, to trust Someone greater than myself. Emily, it’s a short road to homelessness. Shorter than you realize. Once in a blue moon - matter of fact each time there IS a full moon, I revert to my “old ways.” I get into uncomfortable clothes, mingle with uncomfortable people, to remember uncomfortable times.”
“Mr. DeNiro, I had no idea.”
“That uncomfortable past made me what I am today, an extremely thankful man. Emily, I have watched you - trying NOT to see me. Perhaps one day you will have an uncomfortable experience of your own. Perhaps you too will learn there is Someone greater than yourself.”
He walked away. His words soft, his smile genuine. Little did he know, HE WAS the uncomfortable experience that changed my life… forever… for the better.
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