Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Observation Through Conversation

"Spare Some Change?" by Wes Aldridge

Luther sat on the concrete off to the side of Buffalo Billiards on 2nd with his legs sprawled out and his black hat in his hand. I could hear him mumbling to himself as I walked closer with my camera in hand. He asked me for some change because he was hungry for a cheese burger. I handed him what little cash I had in my wallet and asked if he minded some company. He thanked me a couple of times and offered me a seat. His jean jacket was soiled with old dirt and his voice weighed heavy from vodka.

"I'm going through hard times, hard times," he rambled almost incoherently. I leaned against the brick wall and said, "sometimes we all go through them bro."

"I am just gonna go to the cheese burger store, I ain't gonna do nuttin' bad with this," he said as he held the money I gave him. "Man, I really don't care what you do with that cash as long as you are a little happier tonight," I said.

He asked me where I was from. I said Georgia and he told me how his former wife had left him while they lived in Atlanta. Before he got through with his story, two metro officers drove by us slowly in their cruiser. "I gotta get on going down the road now," he said, clearly afraid the officers were gonna come for him.

"Can you help me with one more thing?" he asked. "Shoot," I said. "Can you help me up from here? I am only 42, but I've gotten old fast on the streets," he said.

I grasped the roughly dry hand of this 240-plus lb. , 6-foot tall man that I had met only minutes ago and struggled to pull him to his feet. He thanked me again and I watched him stagger off toward Broadway with the $2.49 I gave him in hand, rambling on about cheese burgers.

This is our city. This was one of our citizens. And this was part of his life's story tonight.