Walking around suburban Denver today a homeless guy and his dog approached me on the side of the road. Duffle bag and guitar. A whiff of alcohol. Pretty standard stuff. The dog was cute. He said he was hungry. We were standing in front of a Panera. I said I’d buy him lunch. He ordered soup and bread. I got him a gift card for future meals. It’s Christmas. ‘Tis the season and all.
We sat down and he told me his story. Born in Albuquerque. Home life was rough. (Check.) Mom had bad taste in men. (Check.) Folks went to prison. (Check.) Left home at fifteen. (Check.) Lived on the streets. (Check.) He opted for the army. Iraq. Two tours. (Here’s where our trajectories part. I was more… entrepreneurial as a teen runaway.) He had bad burn scars. Dishonorable discharge after a suicide attempt. How much of this was true? It seemed true to him. He said he was 27. He looked younger. And older. He had long eyelashes and red eyes. He said he was a drunk. I asked him what comes next. “Walk around until I die.” I left him and the dog at Panera. The army saves some people. Gives them structure. Skills. Opportunity for advancement. A community. A surrogate family. A pension. But sometimes it takes broken people and breaks them a little more.