J| The Vagabond

I am flushed with a sense of manifested guilt whenever my eyes happen to wander and pause and land on them. My body immediately feels both hot and cold at the same time and my eyes will quickly dart around in a recalcitrant reflex – it’s a vain effort. I feel guilty for:

  • Purposely trying to blend and wash away into a unsolicited crowd; my orbs that have been busy searching have finally disembarked upon my seductive LED screen that swallows my poor little eyeballs into a world of Last Seen messages and dog videos
  • Pretending to not carry around any cash; “I’m sorry ma’am, I’m afraid I don’t have any money on me.” I say, as my back pocket burns from the knowing eyes of the God we trust in and a green Ben Franklin
  • And not doing anything about it even though I feel this violently boring guilt

I’ll try to tell myself that it’s not my fault. My dad has warned me of the many liars and fakers and cons in this world. But I know the truth, as much as I try to hide from it: you can’t fake amputation.

Most of the ones I meet are grateful. They don’t smile, or at least, I can’t tell because often times they’re skin sags and stretches far beyond the corners of their mouths. They don’t make eye contact. Instead they’ll keep their eyes low and humble as they offer you gum or rice cakes in exchange. I always find it weird because back where I’m from, gum costs more than a few cents. Even when I do manage to gather up the courage to spare the few extra bucks I still feel guilty for:

  • Accepting their thanks in a way where my fingers don’t touch their hands; I could lie and tell you that I am a clinically recognized germaphobe, but I won’t because I feel guilty enough about lying earlier. They smell, to be perfectly honest. I hate that I’m being perfectly honest. I hate it more that I even noticed.
  • Skeptically examining the homemade rice cakes; he tells me that they’re drugged, that they’re after my kidneys and my eyes and my heart, but I know that’s not true. Instead I inspect for bugs or stray hairs.
  • And pretending not to be hungry and giving the food to my dad; I don’t tell him where it’s from and he has yet to pass out

My mom once told me about a local news story. Actually she has told me these stories, far more than “once.” From experience, from those that I have encountered, I find that Asian parents have a habit of taking in and spitting out everything they hear from the news. She will talk about the missing girl in Florida for months, trying to scare us and prepare us for the cruel outside world. I feel guilty for

  • Flagrantly rolling my eyes in sheer annoyance until they are nothing but glossy whites
  • Not particularly caring for nor listening to the story she has recited for the umpteenth time
  • And forgetting said story when I walk home from school

Today’s story was about a woman. She was an educator, a teacher, a principal at a school. She had slipped on some ice, broken her hip, gone under surgery, received a bill much too much, got fired from her job for missing too many days, fell into debt, sold her house and cars, and was now homeless. I don’t have to feel guilty this time. “It can happen to the best of us.”

If you could not tell, this post was about the homeless, the panhandlers, that I often see scattered along bustling roads. It was confession about how I often find myself not knowing how to act, because yes I know they should be treated first and foremost as humans, but no I can’t just blatantly ignore their request for money or lead them on and seem insensitive. And yes, I do know that it is best to give to the less fortunate, but no, I can’t just give away my life savings, or even my lunch money because I’m much too selfish. Can you understand at least a little bit? I really wish that what I wrote wasn’t true, but as they say, the truth will set you free.


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