commuterchroniclesdbh

Driving and Biking in the Big City

Homeless in the ‘burbs

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I left the suspiciously unsuspicious-acting truck driver that day and headed into my neighborhood toward home. When I came off the main road, I had to make the decision to continue following the concrete-paved street that doglegs around to later run in front of my house or to go straight into the shaded overhang of the asphalted greenbelt behind my neighbors’ houses. My neighborhood is built like an airport terminal. One long street where I live and then “runways” down to cul-de-sacs that empty out onto the greenbelt. If I go the greenbelt route, I’m under a canopy of pines, oaks, magnolias and occasional willows.

The throbbing, heat-pounding street is never the best option in the Texas sun, and the greenbelt shade is preferred, but this is winter. Almost tolerable most days. Neither of my options is shorter in distance than the other, and, in the end, I like to mix it up a bit – just like I change up the bike paths that are part of my routine. I never know what I’m going to do until it strikes me in the moment. Interestingly, I’m never indecisive and my path is clear almost immediately. I’ve come to rely more and more on my instincts as I’ve gotten older.

In this particular moment, I decided to take the road. Fast-track it for the house.  The actual street I live on is Blue Mountain. Of course, there are no mountains in my part of Texas, much less down my street but that is how these streets are named. Every street is clearly marked with completely different names. I suspect the builder considered the names to be unique. But, for some reason, they all sound alike, and I can’t quite remember any other street names but my own street. Blue Mountain, Spring Heather, Walnut Creek, Babbling Brook, etc. See how different they are and yet how much they are the same when someone asks you for a crossroad.

I swerved my bicycle wide around the road bumps of the circle at the end of my street, making my mileage on my handlebar odometer as high as possible. I wasn’t remotely thinking about the weirdness that I’d experienced along my ride – first the stranger who didn’t expect me and then the stranger who seemed to be expecting someone and wouldn’t look at me. The first stranger was at the beginning of my ride, the second at the end. Now, I smelled home and hearth and a bit of a well earned relax on the porch, maybe with a glass of Chardonnay after I’d had my prerequisite glasses of water.

I glanced at my mileage and saw I’d reached the fatal 6.66 miles and knew I’d have to make it at least to a solid seven miles or my superstitious upbringing would kick in. That was easy enough to do by taking every single cul-de-sac along the straightaway to my house. One, two, three, four of them. Then I entered the fifth street on the left, the one right in front of my house, and a black Mercedes was coming my way. I biked to my side of the road, as usual, but was watching out to check his speed and to be sure he saw me, too. After all, I was on the smaller, more vulnerable vehicle. When we made eye contact, I did a double take and so did the driver.

Sitting behind the wheel of this somewhat older but pretty luxurious Mercedes was a familiar face. Not someone I know but someone I’d seen and had a conversation with in the last six months. However, this particular Mercedes driver had been a homeless man the other time I’d seen him.  He was pushing a nearly empty shopping cart at a gas station just outside of the loop.

My first thought was to stop immediately and let my jaw drop. But I happened to be in front of my own house. I didn’t want this guy to know where I lived, so I kept moving, all the way down to the park about a block away. I attempted to act nonchalantly as I biked away and forced myself not to look back until I made it to the parking lot to turn my bike around. When I turned, I could still see the Mercedes so he had to be going really slowly. He should have been off my street by now.

I bravely started back toward my house and watched while, up ahead, he made the dogleg to the right toward the thoroughfare and finally went out of sight. I slowed my pace even more to see if he would turn around and come back. He didn’t. I blew out a long, confused breath.

Could I be wrong? What would that same homeless guy be doing in my neighborhood? And what was he doing driving such a nice car?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t convince myself I was mistaken because I remembered him quite clearly. After all, he’d grabbed me and even kissed me when I last saw him, changing my casual policy for donations to the homeless forever.

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Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

February 19, 2014 at 10:49 am

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