I was parked on the street around the corner from Vertigo Records. I'd bought some discs and a little button that said 'CAPITALISM IS NOT DEMOCRACY.' I agonized over this latter purchase since it would mark me as an enemy of all that is good and right. As I was getting into my car, I saw from the corner of my eye that a black guy who was across the street was now crossing, coming towards me. I hurried but he was faster, and it would've been fucking rude to just slam the door and ignore him. I've been hit up for money before. I wanted to get out of there because I knew if he asked I was going to give it to him, and I shouldn't be throwing money around the way I used to. I'm unemployed, after all. Being a supervillain doesn't pay much during the startup phase. The man wasted no time.
"Hey, excuse me... no, it's all right," he said. He could see I was wary of him. It's one thing to be approached in a yuppie playground like Silicon Valley, another to be approached downtown in a midwest city. "I was wonderin' if you could spare some change or whatever... I'm homeless." The man was wearing a down jacket and a hoodie, was unshaven, disheveled but not especially demented-looking.
I had a roll of twenties and a five. I could've given him the lincoln, and I started to do that. But something inside told me to not be so cheap. So I rolled off a twenty and planted it in his hand... despite my internal debate I appeared to do it without hesitation.
He moved close. I wondered if he was setting me up to rob me. I'm sure it will happen one day. He couldn't believe his fortune and seemed to be grasping for words. I wasn't all that sure he was homeless, and as he put his hand on my shoulder I could smell the liquor on him. Fuck it, I'm not his judge. I stiffened a little until I decided he wasn't going to hurt me... my response to unexpected human contact is that of a stray animal. Especially when the human is a desperate street person of undetermined sanity. "Thank you, man," he said. "Thank you... hey, that's my sister over there...."
He waved his 'sister' over. "Check it out... he just drops a rock on me," he said. "This is my sister. Maybe you could help her out...." She was largish, chunky, kind of cute. She wore a brown beret. She glanced at the brother like she wanted to know how he put one over on me. I don't think either of them quite knew what to make of me... the local whites don't seem to be as selfish as the dot-com slobs I used to work with, but neither do they have that kind of cash to give away.
I glanced at the bill in his hand. I figured if she was his sister they could split it. He saw where my attention was, said "Yeah, I know, but..." He kind of gestured to her. I shrugged, pulled out my roll and gave her a twenty as well. She thanked me, hugging me and placing a kiss on my neck, a wet one. I asked them to keep it to themselves... I didn't want a reputation.
The man gave me his blessings and they both wandered across the street again. I bid the guy 'take it easy;' he responded by saying "Hey, I ain't gonna hurt no one, man...."
I still felt the kiss on my neck as I drove off, shaken by how easily I'd been coaxed to pay out. I rolled down the windows and cranked up LL Cool J like it was some kind of badge, anachronistic though it was. There he goes, the hero of the people.
Driving north on the highway, I felt like something went wrong back there, felt faintly violated. I wasn't supposed to be giving away money like that anymore... my sympathy will be better served by holding on to what I have until I'm ready to do something decisive. I'd decided by now that they weren't homeless. Did I pay out because I was afraid of them? Why did I insist on being such a soft touch? I knew that after I left, they weren't saying 'what a nice person that was,' they were laughing about how they got over on a stupid white guy. Whatever. How can I rant about how blacks get such a raw deal in this country and then not give it up when there's an opportunity for practical application of my beliefs? They were only in that position because generations of rich Anglo fucks engineered things to keep them there. It's nothing I did personally, but I suppose every so often you have to take a beating for someone else's crime.
I reflected that $40 is as much as many-- most --people in America take home in a day. Who do I think I am?