There is a man I see every morning at the 7th Avenue station. He appears to be homeless with torn clothes and hair that hasn’t been combed since the first Bush was in office. Despite his scraggly appearance, he never panders for money, just sits in the same spot directly across from the booth on a waiting area bench. The bench, I should mention, is just inside the turnstiles. It was made with built-in barriers to keep guys like him from lying down for a nap, but he seems to enjoy the bustle. He watches the comings and goings in this busy station with basset hound eyes, legs crossed at the ankles. When I return to this station in the evenings he’s never here.
He keeps a hat, brim up, next to him. Occasionally I notice several dollar bills in there, enough to buy a Big Mac or pint of beer. Even though he rarely moves a limb and seems as much a part of the bench as the grain itself, somehow this guy has broken through the cloak of invisibility that most homeless people in this city wear. Riders stop and chat with him as they pass on their way downstairs to the tracks. I’ve tried to eavesdrop without success, but their body language belies a familiarity that comes over time. I imagine striking up a conversation with him, although I don’t know what I would say. My last interaction with a homeless person involved him forming a gun with his thumb and first finger and pretending to shoot me because I didn’t give him money.
This morning a girl, about seven or eight, approaches him with her father behind. Her hair is trimmed into a bob style just under her chin and her face still bears the remains of Halloween make-up that either wouldn’t wash off or she wouldn’t permit to be washed off. She says something to the man. He nods in the slightest of movements. Then she hands over a plastic bag with several pieces of Halloween candy and he offers a small wave before her father escorts her to the train platform. All treats and no tricks here.