Name is John, most people around here call me Johnny D. don’t care much what people call me but I like Johnny D. better than John cuz it sounds less like Catholic school and more like my life now. I haven’t been to a church in years, not sure they’d want me anyways not with the life I lead. I live in the streets, and when warm it’s good but when it’s cold and snowing not so much. I huddle in doorways where people with their leather boots step around me, “hey don’t judge me asshole”, and sniff. So what if I smell bad, maybe you smell bad but they are just plain disgusted that a man could end up like me, living on the street, black garbage bag as my rent. What do they know, they know nothing, I’ll tell you. They judge me but they don’t know me, not one bit.” Hey, YOU, “I scream sometimes to get their attention,” I WAS you once” and then I take a long drag from my filter-less cigarette and keep laughing, that really makes em move fast, real fast.
Yep, I was walking in expensive, brown Italian leather shoes, carrying a briefcase and heading down to the city to a big- shot job. I made good enough money in banking until the world tipped over on its head and the stock market crashed like an airplane into water. Casualties everywhere, people drowning, hell, they were the lucky ones. I wish I had drowned but God kept me alive which to me was more punishment than having just killed me. I wasn’t lucky, I was cursed. I saw men and women who told me their plans to kill themselves with drugs and jagged lines up and down and across their wrists so they would get themselves good. They didn’t want to make no mistakes in dying.
So here I am, having failed at something I wanted to do. I couldn’t even die. Couldn’t even put myself out of my own misery. Well, shit, why I don’t know. People say it wasn’t my time to go, but I sure felt it was. I wanted to go so bad and not embarrass my wife and my baby girl and son anymore. They used to be so proud of their dad but now they referred to me as a “bum.” I was never any “bum” I was just down on my luck but my wife she didn’t stick up for me, not once.
Well, I guess she didn’t like the alcohol problem I was having and the drugs but I was trying to quit, I swear. She threw me out and that’s why I started living on the streets, not that I had too much of a choice. Once or twice in the winter I stayed in a shelter for people like me, good people, until I got on my feet again. Just not on my feet yet. But, I will be soon enough. I’m determined to get help and walk straight up again, just need some good luck, someone to give me a break and a job. No, I haven’t been looking for a job myself but soon someone will find me and offer me a job, I can feel it. Then, I will get paid money, instead of collecting it here on the street with a cup, shave off my beard, change my clothes and stand straight and tall and go home so that my little girl can run and hug me and my son will jump on my lap and my wife will want to have me back because I have dreams. Aint nobody gonna take away my dreams.
Photograph credit to photographers
Kellie Elmore and K. Nickerson