Hassan


Not more than twice have I taken verbal abuse for being homeless.

Here is the more memorable of those events.

Hassan is an immigrant from, I think, Persia.  He speaks a half-dozen languages.  He claims he was a practicing physician.  He claims Obamacare bankrupted his practice.

Back in the day when I spent lots of time at McDonald’s, he showed up for a while.  My diary suggests it went on several days; my memory suggests it was only a day or two.  I normally sat in the balcony, and he chose to do so as well.  He’s voluble.  He’d tell people his story, flatter the Latinas and their children in Spanish, and make disparaging remarks about me.

So there was a need to aggrandize himself at my expense.

There was the time when we happened to arrive at the counter at the same time to get our refills.  He made remarks to the staff — who knew me much better than him — about “this hobo.”  He used that term again and again about me; I don’t know, is it pejorative?  He told me to move away from him.  He said, “Who knows where he slept last night?”

There was the time we passed each other in the stairwell; no one else was around.  He shouted, “YOU STINK,” albeit I’d taken the mandatory daily shower at the shelter and put on all freshly-washed clothes.

I kept silence, in large part because I remembered him.  I was astonished that he seemed not to remember me.

Fourteen months prior, he’d stayed at the same shelter I do, day after day, for eight weeks.  An uncharacteristic event: at breakfast one morning, he started a fight.  Put your hands on anyone at this shelter, and you’re barred out forever.

Apparently, after that, his fortunes changed.

They changed again.

Maybe six weeks after that encounter at McDonald’s, he showed up at the shelter again.

At intake, we queue up in this long line outdoors, and then are admitted one by one through these doors where we get a bunk assignment at one desk and pay our cash at another.  I saw him in line, far in front of me.  Once he got inside, out of earshot, I advised staff that he’s barred out.

Minutes later, they turned him away.

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