The homeless surround me. I see the lost souls wherever I go. As I sit this morning in Starbucks, they sit outside in the enclosed cafe table area looking gathered, looking fenced in. Their silent stares are loud enough to send me shuffling in any direction they are not. My ears are ringing and my thoughts race. They are a sad, lost, sometimes violent culture existing like ghosts at the edges of civilization; only these phantoms do not vanish when I look full on them after catching them from the corner of my eye. As I gaze, these phantoms shimmer and solidify into human beings - the last thing I want. I don't want to be hit with the sight of them; I don't want them to have focus and context. I would prefer that they remain ghosts instead of being forced to acknowledge that they are people with a past, a present, and perhaps no future.
Their ranks have swollen, and they seem everywhere. Not just at Starbucks, but in a small outcropping of trees on a vacant lot down the street, under bridges, in store parking lots, on highway ramps, under our noses, eyes piercing from dark weathered faces, holding signs pleading in block letters for money, for food, for help. They offer nothing in return, not even the promise to fade away. I help, I move on, they stay to be helped by another or ignored by another, but still they are standing, pleading, watching - a sad soulless cycle.
All I seem to do is let it gnaw at my conscious. All I can do is sit here and feel bad, wanting to save the world. I am worried beyond that, my desire to save the world may simply be there to salve my own ego and assuage my own guilt. I don't know if I can save those I love, much less myself, much less the world.
So I sit, write, drink coffee all on a full stomach. Soon I will stand, put some coins in the homeless meter by the door, and go to my car with head down and eyes averted, trying to avoid the homeless phantoms, trying to forget that I am surrounded by people with a past, a present, and no future.