I saw him on the street.
I thought about inspecting him closer but decided not to because he might have noticed.
As fate would have it, he boarded the bus and sat directly behind me.
“God bless you,” he repeated to the man who'd given his seat.
He was religious?
What religion would take him?
"I will pray to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, for you to make it to Heaven.”
And so he continued the routine monologue, offering his empty prayers:
“Thank you for giving up your seat. You are a good person. I will pray for you go to Heaven.”
Ugh. Will he give up the act already?
“I worship Satan,” said a man with a Mexican accent as thick as Cheech Marin's.
"What's that?" the homeless man asked.
“I actually worship Satan and I'm not goin' to Heaven. I’m going straight to Hell.”
Cheech sat back down next to him.
It was ON.
I turned to check this other guy out. I counted four teeth in his entire head. He was a light Mexican, who you’d have to hear to know he wasn’t a local. To my surprise he looked grungy enough to be living on the streets as well. But perhaps by choice. He didn’t seem crazy... compared to the competition.
I considered moving, but would my fear be obvious? I was afraid of showing I was afraid. I imagined him breaking my neck from behind. I also imagined Muni Police catching him and giving him a taste of his own harassment.
The wannabe journalist in me couldn't leave... "Hang in here," it urged...
I was paralyzed.
“Well you’re goin’ to Hell then!" The bum became defensive. "You’re goin' to Hell where you belong! I wish I could save you, but I can't."
“I saw this movie," Cheech started. "A Mexican movie where everyone in a band worships Satan. They're all trying to go to Hell be-...”
“I don’t care!” the bum huffed. “I don’t care about a Mexican movie. This is the United States!"
The Mexican stayed on point:
“But in Hell there’s Rock n’ Roll."
“There's no music in Hell!"
"In Hell there's lots of beautiful women waiting for you... In Heaven there’s nothing. No music. Just clouds.”
"Man, you’re crazy," the crazy man said.
They laughed in agreement.
Soon, the grungy Mexican got off the bus. And the hobo mumbled what sounded like the end of their interaction, and began a deep throaty chuckle, which lasted too long for social sanity.
Perhaps the Mexican man was having fun with him all along?
Then he snapped out of it and preached for a bit, those same words the men with the “Jesus Christ Loves You” signs repeat.
He exited the bus a block away from the busy street where he goes to panhandle. Some people on the bus shared eye contact and smiled.
A week earlier I saw him, on a corner, harassing some woman for a handout. Then he asked me just before I turned up the street in the other direction. I had hoped to be ignored.
He’s an old guy, stocky, looks mixed black and white, with white hair.
When I had first encountered him a few years ago, I wanted to like him for his unusual appearance. I was working at a pizza parlor on that same street. He would regularly wander into the store to beg for handouts and my boss would shout at him to go.
And every time before he would leave, he'd pause to search for eye contact --
Someone to witness the injustice?