On Sunday morning, I did something unusual. I woke up early. And then I did something else that was unusual, simply because I rarely do it when I am at home. I decided to head out to the balcony for a cigarette. After two unusual things happening so close together, I could have guessed that a third unusual thing was about to take place, if only because I have a superstitious belief in like events happening in threes.
I put on my coat and scarf and stepped out into the apartment building hallway. My brain went Ack!, and I paused for a moment. There was a largish man sleeping on the floor with his shoes and socks off warming his feet by the radiator. He jerked awake when I closed the apartment door.
It got cold out last night, huh? I asked. I did not know what else to say. My heart was whirring and skipping beats.
Uh, yeah. I froze my feet, he said.
I can see that. Good thing that's a warm radiator! I said, and I hurried to the end of the hall and stepped out onto the balcony.
I felt like an idiot standing out there. What kind of asshole was I to comment that he was lucky to have a warm radiator in a public hallway in a building he did not even live in? I waited for my fear reaction to calm down, threw away the last half of my cigarette, and went back inside, hoping to catch him before he got all his stuff together and left. I caught him just as he was tying his shoelaces.
Coffee? I asked.
I mean, would you like some coffee? It'll make you feel better after sleeping on the floor, I said.
Sure, he said. He raised his eyebrows a bit. I think that I shocked him with my offer. I know that I shocked myself with my offer.
Yes! Let's just invite large, homeless men in for morning coffee! I do not mean to disparage homeless men, in particular, because I have got nothing personally against either the homeless or men. It is just that large, powerful looking individuals who may or may not be desperate/on drugs/drunk that are passed out two feet from my apartment door usually strike a bit of fear in me. I also could not figure out what I was doing. I was barely awake. I was either being terribly good-natured or I was exhibiting a suicidal tendency. I decided to roll with it and see what happened.
Moving on from the apologetics and back to the story: he obliged me, and I woke up the Palinode and told him to put some pants on. (This is the best way to wake up your partner on a Sunday morning).
Huh? What's going on? he asked, barely able to open his eyes.
There's a homeless man in the hallway that I invited in for coffee. He seems nice, I said.
What? A homeless guy?
Yeah. He's got good energy, you know? I think it's okay.
I still don't know what's going on, but okay, he said, resigned to whatever I was going to subject him to. God bless him.
The homeless guy came into our apartment, and he was the most socially careful and polite person I think we have ever had over, and that includes my mother, whose manners are always impeccable. He would not even move from the front entry to take a seat in the living room until I very nearly physically prodded him to do so.
Over the next hour-and-a-half, the homeless guy, the Palinode, and I sat and talked through two pots of coffee. We talked about relationships (his girlfriend had kicked him out), poetry (he would like to be a poet), cars (his had gone kaput), ballroom dancing (he loves it, even if he does not fit in), houses (he had to sell his), building (he is a construction worker when he is employed), pets (his dog was hit and killed by a car), and health (he is into natural food and green tea and naturopathy).
I would not suggest that you all run out and invite the first person off the street (or sleeping outside your front door) in for coffee this weekend, but I have to say that it was one of the most enjoyable, relaxing Sunday mornings that I have recently had. Even our cats liked him. Or at least they found his smell fascinating (Oskar spent an hour taking careful inventory of each section of his clothing, looking up only occasionally with his mouth hanging open to squint his eyes, which is a sure sign of smellrificity (that is the state of being smellrific, don't you know.)).
There was none of the ax-murdering, hostage-taking, or any other such violent behaviour of the kind you might fear when inviting in unknown large people of possibly unfavourable origin into your home. It was all polite coffee and getting to know each other.
He even invited us to check out his ballroom dancing class, which makes me all the more happy that he found our hallway radiator to save his toes. I am sure that the East Coast Swing or the Quickstep would be more than difficult without those ten little digits.
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