I was returning home fresh from doing some photography at the botanical garden when I spotted him. As I turned to look discreetly I recognized him instantly. He would often rest on one of those benches that line the entrance to the garden.
He looked like Santa to me from afar, wearing a red kangaroo with another sweater over him. He was laboring to bring all his stuff as he had one large bag and two smaller ones. He was probably in his sixties as his beard was more white than grey.
Immediately I saw that he was walking towards the bus stop where I was waiting. I was surprised when I saw him pull out his bus pass and right away I was faced with a dilemma; to take the bus with him or to walk.
I admit that my reaction was irrational. He did not appear to be a threat despite the fact that I could hear him mumble under his breath, never a good sign. And I knew that people living on the streets often suffered from mental disorders and could sometimes turn violent.
I reflected that he had been young once too, with parents that must have cared for him. He must have had dreams for the future and I am sure that they did not include living on the streets. Was it perhaps drugs or alcohol that drove him to that life? Perhaps it was gambling.
In the end I did the only rational thing, I let him enter the bus first and stayed near the entrance to exit the bus two stops later as planned. He continued on his way.
We were like two ships in the night, passing each other and only briefly seeing each other and then going our separate ways. For some reason I still felt uneasy about our encounter once I was alone at my other bus stop, as if I had escaped something dreadful.
I am not proud of how I felt nor cannot explain it. It was more instinctive than anything else. And it is precisely that instinct that has to be fought. Once we start thinking and not just reacting, we become what we should be, human beings and not merely animals.