FIVE HOMELESS MEN

FIVE HOMELESS MEN

There were four of them sitting outside the door of the Chase Manhattan bank.  It was one of those absurdly humid nights, and Jack speculated that they were trying to get the cool air coming through the building door.  The fifth one was sprawled out in the middle of the sidewalk, blocking the subway entrance.

“Jeez,” I said, “he looks dead.”

Jack snorted a wordless comment.

“Maybe he is dead.”

“What else are you gonna do on a night like this?” Jack asked rhetorically, but I wasn’t sure what he meant.

“Do you mean, what else are you gonna do on a night like this other than die?” I asked, “or other than look dead.”

All five of the group seemed far away, as if in a different dimension.  It felt like we were viewing them through a sheet of glass at the Smithsonian.  None of the five moved at all. They were imprisoned under the lamplight like dead flies.

The one man lay in a very vulnerable position. The four others slumbered in what looked like a great deal of pain.  Their faces slid downward, their broken features twisted, as if gravity had played a bitter trick on them.  The scene reminded me of the image in Goya’s Los Caprichos, in which these miserable people are sleeping in a similar fashion.

“Sleep is the only happiness for the wretched,” I said, quoting Goya.

Jack snorted a wordless comment.

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