Saturday, January 28, 2006

" The Last Bus to Maudlin Street"

One night in late 1986, it was really fucking cold. Chicago was a cold place to be in December, at one time. A big group of us would usually go to a diner after a night at Berlin or Medusa's. The 10 minute walk this night was pretty brutal. We get to the entrance, and here is this guy with no shirt, standing there, shivering.
Now, you have to know, when you live in an area where there is a large homeless population, you have to learn how to make peace with the fact there are people who live OUTSIDE. You have to make peace with it because you see them everyday, and if you don't, you don't sleep at night. It took me a really long time to do that. Maybe my heart just got a little colder. Giving to charity helps.
But I get off the topic. So my first thought is "Oh, he's just trying to manipulate us for a handout. He's putting on an act." I think these things, but I don't say them out loud. Nobody says anything. But after a moment or two, we're back to our normal loud conversations. But my chair is facing the window, and I can see him still out there. I would peek a side long glance from time to time at the person sitting next to me to see if they noticed, too. They either pretended not to see, or didn't see him there. So I tried to focus on my friends.
Sitting next to us were some of the drag queen prostitutes we would see on Broadway and Diversey. (Yes, believe it or not, that was a seedy area at one time.) They were probably there at the diner because of the extra cold night. They of course saw him too. So 15, 20 minutes go by, and now I know that this isn't an act. This guy somehow is outside without a shirt. Then one of the drag queens gets up and gives this guy her jacket. It's hard for her to get it on him, because it's too small and his shivering is more violent. The entire place is quiet, watching. So she pulls him inside and orders him some soup and coffee.
Compassion is never inappropriate.
The next day I was at my friend Mark's place. On his wall was a picture our friend Martin painted that I always loved and envied. It was a painting of a cross-eyed drag queen that we would see in our neighborhood by the diner. I asked him why he painted it, and he said "I just saw something beautiful about her" I saw that painting everyday for a year or so before the "diner incident". I think the most amazing feature of the painting was the way this cross-eyed drag queen looked at you. Like the Mona Lisa. Like she knew something you didn't.

1 comment:

David said...

Was it Morissey?