I’m on Broadway, walking to the subway, when I am approached by a black man maybe in his 30s with his arm outstretched, and I think he’s fund-raising for some nonprofit because they are sometimes aggressively friendly. And I’m trying to see what organization is on his T-shirt.
He comes right up to me, puts his hand on my shoulder, and starts his spiel, which is that he’s homeless and hungry, and can I help him get something to eat, and he’ll even recite a poem, which he starts to do. It takes me a few seconds to realize that he still has his hand on my shoulder, that he didn’t do it merely to stop me, and I say, “Please don’t touch me” (did I say “please”? I don’t remember). He removes his hand. And I think I should give him something, so I get out my wallet and give him a dollar. He takes it and walks away.
He was ordinary looking, with the beginning of a beard, wearing neat clothing, just a few inches taller than me. The most curious thing about this encounter is that I never felt afraid or threatened. Why not? He did not look like he’d been living on the street. He looked like someone I might know. As though anyone I might know could not be living on the street.