Cleveland SOHO Media

by Brittany Robinson

Clouds move above in the sky like wind blowing through the trees. There soft, white billowy shape is forever on the move disappearing into a blue abyss. The man takes a break from sipping his morning coffee and looks up into the sky. He sees the clouds pass him by just like so many others have before. Cars race past him as if they do not see him at all. All that matters is getting to and fro and expediting the process would be surely appreciated. He sees a cloud greet him and then disappear. His heart cringes for he feels that he is disappearing into his own abyss. In this abyss, his mind is constantly racing with disillusioned thoughts and echoing voices offering a steady sound. There is no rest, no tranquility, and the coffee and cigarettes offer him a peace of mind. This brief love affair leaves him wanting for more but never truly satisfies. Subsequently, he paces up and down the street drinking his coffee and smoking his cigarette. He passes by an elementary school, apartment buildings, and houses on his daily routine. However, he goes unnoticed like a ship passing through the night. It's as if they see a physical body but not a person. All they see is a tall, thin man with a bloated belly perhaps from alcohol or use. His bald head and grey beard bear marks of his former self. Sadly, however he is lost in his own "dark hole" as he paces up and down and talking to himself. To a person of sound mind his words are inexplicable and only offer confusion. However, in his mind, they make perfect sense. He entertains these voices and converses with them as if they are real people in real time and space. They are the only ones who understand him and see him for who he truly is. They have been there for him when others have turned their backs. Society has indeed shunned him and deemed him an untouchable. He is no longer worthy of a hand shake, a hug, a pat on the back for he has dug his own grave!

The world wants to protect upstanding citizens from untouchables like him. A man who cannot hold a simple conversation with a human being is better off conversing with the pigs. Yes, this untouchable is forever bound to wandering the street, drinking his coffee, and smoking his cigarette. The man takes a sip of that comforting aroma and closes his eyes and fades back into his abyss.

The man opens his eyes and all he sees are people passing him by in search of their next destination. He sits on his bucket, with his pink whale hat, and navy blue poncho offering smiles to strangers in hopes of enticing them. Perhaps, they will be so kind as to spare some change and brighten his day for a moment even if it fades. Nevertheless, he continues to smile holding his sign and jingling for change. A wealthy man in a business suit passes him by and dares not even to take a look. "Excuse me good sir, could you find it in your heart to spare some change?" asks the man. The wealthy gentleman brushes past him as if he is not even there. "God bless you!" he mockingly shouts. Indeed, God has blessed you; you want for nothing yet receive the desires of your heart. You have fortune, success, and peace of mind and yet you can't even bring yourself to look at me. "Am I that untouchable, am I not worthy of some sort of acknowledgment?" he asks himself.

In a brief moment, a woman drops a few dollars into his bucket of sorrows and continues on her way. "Thank you ma'am, God bless you truly!" he exclaims. This moment proves to be bitter sweet for although she gave him a bit of hope she did not touch him. It has been ages since he has felt the touch of a handshake. Though taken for granted by others, this simple gesture, a mere touch, would remind him that he is a man and most importantly a human being. Sadly, society has ruled yet again that he is untouchable and belongs with his own kind. A man that finds himself panhandling for quarters should not be allowed to associate with a man that works tirelessly for his money. This man does not toil by the sweat of his brow and does not deserve to be a part of our culture. No, this man shall never feel the touch from another person again for he is destined for a life of begging and pleading to the "good" people that pass him by.

A panhandler with the funny pink hat closes his eyes and smiles. When he opens them an untouchable is standing before him. This untouchable shares the same dark skin and similar height, but more importantly he shares the same dashed hopes and unreachable dreams. He is dressed in tattered grey apparel with raggedy shoes. "Hello friend, how are you on this fine day?" the man in the pink hat asks. "As fine as anyone could be in my condition," the man replies. As he puts his hand on the man's shoulder he shrinks back. "Take your hand off me this instant your touch is not warranted friend," he says. The man in the pink hat frowns with disappointment for he did not mean to upset him ,he only wanted to extend an embrace to let him know he does exist. "Sorry, I did not mean to stir fear in your heart, what have they done to you to cause you to harbor such animosity?" he asks.

"They have done everything to me asI have done many things to myself. Ah yes, my demise has been a combined effort. I used to be a carpenter and enjoyed creating and building things with my hands. It excited me to turn an unnoticeable piece of wood that has not been touched and make it into something beautiful. However, I love the rush and zest for life I feel when the needle enters my arm. Feeling the intoxicating sensation surge through my body is indescribable. Sometimes it is hard to find a vein. I search for them in my arms, my feet, and even my neck. I suppose these veins do not want to be touched anymore." states the man. A tear falls from his new found friend's eye for he too knows what it feels like to suffer in your own personal hell. "Oh friend, I understand your plight for although my poison is not a needle I cannot put down the bottle. Mmmm, when that bottle reaches my lips and the liquor flows through my body I feel alive. Even if the feeling only transpires until that last drop it feels so enlightening. The taste is so flavorful and takes me to an altered state as if I am in a spiritual realm. In this realm, I am flying high above the clouds as I view the people below. These people look like little ants scattering about. For once I am superior passing them by. Wouldn't it be great if the shoe were placed on the other foot? There is no telling what they would do to survive this cruel world and what they would do to deal with the pain and heartache that accompany you day and night." He states with a hopeless tone. "I subscribe to the needle and you to the bottle and yet society wants nothing to do with us. Perhaps the only friends we will ever know are our own personal vices," he says. "Tis a valid point you make, but you have a friend in me. I understand what you have gone through and what you continue to face. I can offer you companionship if you want, what do you say will you take my hand?" the man in the pink hat desperately asks. The man only shakes his head and turns away rejecting his offer and refusing to feel the physical warmth of another being ever again. Squinting into the sun she sees two dark feet sticking out from an object. Her hazel eyes focus to try and make out what this object is and who is hiding behind it. It is a tiresome walk back from work, but at least she has a house to go home to. As she edges closer she realizes that this object is a cart full of dirty, ragged clothes and a man appears before her jingling his cup for change. Immediately, she feels it is best to maintain distance for she does not want to come into contact with this hopeless vagabond. They share the same skin color which should put them on a level playing ground in society, but yet they are drastically different. She has a sound work ethic with a promising future and he has capitulated into his own despair. As she gazes at him she sees him peering back at her with a look of contempt. Perhaps his contempt has kept him from trying to find a job or has taught him how to stay alive. Indeed, he is content in methodically jingling his cup a! t every person who catches his eye, yet his willingness to remain silent during his routine is perplexing. He does not verbally ask for pennies and dimes, yet his actions hope for ten dollar bills. Maybe he is aware of others around him, these others who want nothing to do with him.

What is the point of speaking if you are not being spoken to the man silently thinks. How rude can one be to shake your cup at people instead of speaking up and asking for money the young woman ponders. Look at you in your fancy work clothes and you mean to tell me you sincerely don't have extra cash on you the man angrily thinks. Why don't you try going to a homeless shelter and use that resource to inquire about job placement. Maybe then you, as well, could afford to buy nice things she thinks while staring at him. She is standing on the corner waiting for the crosswalk to light, yet she can't take her eyes off of him. She is afraid to get near him for who knows what diseases he may be carrying and yet she cannot break her stare. I am not going to bite you, just because I may look dirty and malnourished does not mean I am broken. You and countless others alike all come in pretty packages but that does not mean you all are not flawed. Why yes, stand there safely by the crosswalk and gawk at the spectacle placed before you. I am here not only for your amusement and jest, but to also serve as a reminder of why "vermin" don't belong in society. I have been banished from a world where touch nurtures happiness and pleasure. I will forever envy those who engage in a handshake or in a warm embrace. Look at what you have done to yourself, to blame society or your friends and family for your peril is absurd. You should embrace being accountable for your own actions for when judgment day comes only you will be held liable, she fumes. The crosswalk beckons her near and within an instant she disappears from his sight, leaving him alone with his cart and religious symbols as companions.

Click, click, click chimes the turn signal like clockwork. The homeless man is pacing back and forth cradling his sign asking for money. He passes dozens of cars as he peers through the windows hoping a kind stranger will accept his invitation. This invitation cordially invites these strangers to be his guest. Perhaps one of these strangers shall be his guest of honor and carve the time to listen to his stories regaling about his former life. Why yes, this ordained guest will be treated with the utmost respect and with kindness as any human being deserves. More importantly, this guest shall be seated next to him and will be privy to his whimsical tales as they feast on hope, courage, and compassion. Click, click, click chirps the turn signal and the man behind the wheel peers back at the homeless man. He sees someone who displays a deceiving amount of courage, for he exposes his vulnerability by asking someone for help. Upon studying this specimen he feels compassion overcome his body. As a result, he is compelled to give this man hope. The man comes to the window and he rolls it down placing a twenty dollar bill in his hand. "Oh sir, thank you, thank you so much. God bless you!" states the homeless man. "You are welcome and God bless you my friend. When I saw you pacing back and forth I noticed this light all around you and I could not pass you by. This light is the courage inside you. It still shines bright despite your dismal surroundings, take care my friend," says the man and before rolling the window up he SHAKES his hand.