Okay. Time for my nightly tally of all that I own. Let’s see how today fared.
Four shirts, two pairs of pants, my coat, my shoes, my hat, and my gloves. One of my shoes is starting to develop a hole. That’s going to be tough, because it’s difficult to find my size. Next time I’m at Goodwill, maybe I’ll get lucky.
My sign. I keep it with me. Making a sign seems pretty easy – cardboard is everywhere – but I have to spend money on a marker, and that same amount could buy me a hot meal. Every dollar counts.
Sunglasses. Have you ever stood outside next to a line of cars in full sun? It’s agony. I might seem less personable, less real, when I’m wearing them, but they save my eyesight.
My backpack. Sure, having a picture of a superhero on my backpack may look ridiculous, but beggars can’t be choosers, right? Heh, heh. That’s kind of clever.
A pocketknife. A knife does a thousand different things. I thank God that I haven’t had to use it on any people, other than to cut my own hair. I pray that I will never have to make that choice.
My water bottle. It is rather ironic that I got it at a job fair, from a realtor agency no less! At least, I assume that it’s ironic. I don’t laugh much these days.
My wallet. Inside is five dollars for emergencies, my library card, and my driver’s license. I guess that’s another funny thing, me having a licence but neither an address nor a car. But there’s so much that can’t be gotten without photo ID these days that it is really worth the $20 that I need to spend every couple years to get it renewed. And I don’t really have any other forms of ID lying around, so I need it.
My journal. I thank the college student that tossed this half-used notebook away; I’ve made far better use of it than he did, I’m sure. I flip open to my daily total, count the droppings that people deemed worthy of donation. I am worth $57.64 today. I make careful note of this.
It will cost me $20 for my bed and dinner tonight. I get up and shuffle down the block to the local branch of the bank. A few of the patrons give me looks of disgust as I enter, but I have become immune to such gazes. One of the tellers knows me. Her smile is the brightest part of every day.
“Here for your daily deposit, Mr. Andrews?” she greets me, ignoring the dirt on my hands, the crumpled appearance of the bills, the unsorted change, the smell of me. Somehow, I am still worthy of a smile. “How much did we bring in today?”
I hand over $37, and she makes a careful note of the amount, her hands so neat and manicured. I am never as clean. I don’t think, even with a year to bathe and scrub, I could be as clean as everyone else seems to be. She takes the money and places it in a drawer. I used to longingly eye that drawer, the bills inside. Now I am apathetic.
“Do you want to know your total, Mr. Andrews?” she asks. I already know the total. It is in my journal. It is not much. But it is my last refuge, my last measure of worth. Someday, I will have enough for an apartment, for a job, for a life. I shake my head and shuffle back outside, back into the cold, to make my way to the homeless shelter.