How to live on the streets

How to get there How to stay there

I TRY TO JUSTIFY MYSELF AS A SPYWhen people asked what sort of story I was working on, I told them I wanted to write about how to survive on the streets. And that is true, as far as it goes-in what you have been reading, there is information about that. But my real intent was either much simpler or much more complex. I intended to hold up for examination the life of one man. When we are in a place where there are homeless people, we tend to avoid them. I find myself doing this. The experts tell us that this is fear. The homeless are so different from what we are accustomed to in our lives-and we always fear the unknown. But in rare moments of self-honesty, I realize that this is untrue. It is not the unknown that I fear; it is what is all too well-known. I have failed many times in my life in things small and large. I needed to look at another's life. I needed to know if it could happen to me.

FAIRHAVEN CEMETERYThe lawns of the cemetery lie beneath the relentless sky and the occasional harsh rainbows of sprinklers. We have come to a sheltered corner of the cemetery by a large dark fir where there are rows of marble markers flush with the earth. Mark is kneeling, bent forward slightly at the waist. He reaches into the cup that is imbedded in the earth to hold flowers, and out of it, he draws three plastic toy figures. His fingers tighten around them. He begins to cry silently, and within the tears, he speaks so softly that I cannot hear. A small breeze shivers the boughs of the fir. Here beneath the blue, relentless sky. And after a time, he rises. He turns away and heads slowly back along the row of markers of children. I mean to ask him what he said, but in the end, I never find the courage.

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