I met a favorite person at my favorite Seattle downtown bakery yesterday. We had only been settled outside with tea at a bistro table for five minutes when I heard shouting. Looking over her shoulder I saw a man, barely dressed, violently wrestling with equipment in the bakery doorway. “Open the box! Open the box” he howled. Seconds later a large man wearing a security vest bodily lifted him away from the entrance. Still screaming, the man turned on the guard, who proceeded to shove the flailing man away, inch by inch, down the street, away from the patrons. I was the only one who watched.
I would like to say that was that. But this happened three more times in the hour, each time the guard, implacably and without a word, removed them from the sidewalk.
I am not qualified nor do I know if the labels “homeless,” ‘vagabond,” or “mentally ill” apply here. But I felt a deep sense of divide that day.
When I returned to my car I couldn’t leave; for one, I had just witnessed people who were just, well, lost. And secondly, who was this stranger bodily removing people so I could have a cup of tea? I got out of my car and went back to the bakery, looking for him. I went inside and thanked the barista for having him present; she told me the building had hired him. I handed her cash and asked her to buy him a cup of coffee from me, or anything he wanted. Tell him a woman thanks him who watched.
I cannot change what has happened to the streets of Seattle, but I can and need to thank a person for doing a thankless job.
The Thing Is
to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you down like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.
BY ELLEN BASS