His name was Bob. Though it took me a long time to find that out, way past the time that I first spotted him. Our bus pulled in to its parking space outside the infamous Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, and I thought I would go walkabout. It all looks a little run down though I’m sure residents of the area would take me to task. Seemed like a lot of folk with needs were on the street, which for some was their home.
A long way removed from the beautiful homes that make up this wonderful city by the water. So the Starbucks tea revives me and I wander. Outside the senior citizens refuge centre a gentleman sits in a wheel chair just staring into nothing. He has a blanket but is only half dressed with half of his body exposed to a rather cool wind. I observe for a while. Some guy is talking to him about conspiracy theories, how the world is going to end or something. Bob doesn’t seem to acknowledge the conversation. I wander by and on up the road. Half-hour later I’m coming back up the other way and he is still there though alone this time. I walk past but a bunch of messages fill my mind, go talk to him, just say something. Then I counter them by thinking I’m just trying to ease my conscious and that it’s not a genuine act. The mind is a complex place sometimes. I walk down, cross the road and turn towards him. Somehow our faces find each other and I smile. He looks away. So I walk up and say hello and he responds. We talk. He is from Philadelphia; he came here a while ago as the climate is better for his health. He talks in a whisper and I have to bend close to listen. I tell him where I’m from but he never got to the UK. He served in the US Navy for 25 years. His breathe his faint. I ask him if they look after him hear and he says they do, the ladies knitted him the blanket and it keeps him warm. I ask him if he needs a little money but he says, and without anger, that he is not begging but thanks me. I say that I didn’t mean to offend and he says that none is taken. We then exchange names and shake hands. His are small and frail. I wish him well and he says ‘God bless you’.
I walk away but a short while later turn back. Bob is staring into the road again. I walk on and a black gentleman shuffles at my side. ‘How you doin boss?” he says. ‘I’m fine thank you sir’ I reply. He shuffles on and, maybe it’s because I’m six thousand miles from home or that I’m just a little tired, but I well up. I think it’s probably because once again my soul is shaken and saddened by a world that is simply not fair.