He sits on the sidewalk on a raggedy blanket, and I buy him spaghetti. A market employee helps heat it and we sit on the pavement and eat together. Garry is from the South and loves rock music from the '70s and '80s. The radio on his shopping cart starts playing Miley Cyrus. He enthusiastically sings along, "I came in like a rainbow..." I smile and correct him. "She is actually singing I came in like a wrecking ball." Garry laughs, thinks I'm joking. He places his hand on my shoulder and prays a blessing over me. "I don't like talking to people much, but I like talking to you."
She has been living on the streets long enough to know everyone -- who to trust and who to stay away from. Like an older sister, she watches over me. She becomes my shield, my guiding angel. Being homeless for so long has given her a hardened exterior, but the way she takes me under her wing shows her softer side. As soon as she is sure I am safe she disappears into the night. Donna Monique, the self appointed "Hood Patrol."
He stands on the street corner, mumbling incoherent words, longing for connection. People walk by, ignoring him. There is an intensity in his eyes; perhaps scary to some. I get him what he wants to eat: a big bag of Cheetos, two energy drinks and Skittles. I learn his "secret:" He is a ninja in training. He roams the city at night to fight crime and bring justice. Then he whispers in my ear "I am schizophrenic." I reply, "Every superhero has his kryptonite."
"I want to die!" she screams. I met "Angel" in Little Tokyo, where she was begging for change. She walks with a limp and her hands are curled into balls. When she asks me for change, I ask what she needs the money for and she says that she is not a druggie, that she needs medication. I volunteer to go with her to the pharmacy and she starts screaming. "Why does no one believe me? I told you I am not a druggie!" I've never seen such angry tears and such hopelessness. When she finally calms down I say, "You see, I am still here." Then I buy her something to eat and we take a walk. She tells me that she is originally from Indiana. She never knew her parents and was raised by her grandma, who died when she was a teenager. She married at 15 and had three kids. Her husband beat her, once so badly she ended up in a coma. The brain damage caused her to have paralysis in both her arms and legs.
"Excuse me, can you spare 50 cents?" he asks. "Why not ask for more?" I say. He says he thought $1 would be asking for too much. So I take him out to dinner. Sean grew up in St. George, Utah. Six months ago, he came out to California with a promise of a job. The job fell through, and he wound up on Skid Row, sleeping on a cardboard box. He's been mainly eating from the dollar menu at McDonald's, so I take him to this nice pizza place. He says it is the best food he's had since he's been here. We sit and share life stories. We talka lot about skateboarding since I used to be a skater. Sean grew up Mormon but wasn't too involved in church. He's close to his family and keeps in touch by calling them regularly from one of the demo phones at the T-Mobile store. His mom urges him to come home, but he says that he's not ready yet. It seems like he is looking for something, but he's not sure what.