It was Friday night, and I was on the DART rail headed over to Uptown to meet up with my wife, Sweet T so we could drive over to the women’s shelter where we conduct a small chapel service every 3rd Friday of the month. The train I got on was somewhat crowded, given the hour. A DART officer was making rounds, checking ticket stubs. I looked around for a seat. A young man donning a baseball cap, sunglasses, a shirt with cut-off sleeves and tattered blue jeans fidgeted with his backpack. Without turning to me, he said: “Hey there brother.” Seeing the seat next to him was empty, I waited for him to get situated and decided to sit down next to him. “Where you headed?” he asked.
“The country.” He chuckled. “Naw, I mean I’m from the country. Ready to get out of this city. It’s not for me. The country is my home. It’s where I’m comfortable.”
“Yeah, I get that. The city can be hard. But so can the country.”
“Yeah, truth is I’m homeless.”
“Oh yeah? When did that happen?”
“I been homeless about four years, on and off. On mostly.”
“Sorry to hear that brother.”
“Yeah. That’s why I figure I need to get out to the country. I got a friend who knows a guy with some land. He might need some help.”
“That’s good. What do you do? Work-wise, I mean?” His sunglasses shielded his eyes, preventing me from getting a clear read on him.
I admit I was surprised by his answer. Marketing was not what I expected him to say. He certainly didn’t look like your typical salesman. But then guys living on the streets know how to hustle. They’re all salesmen in a sense.
“Yeah, I was doing alright ’til I got robbed. Making good money. I let a friend stay on my couch, and he stole me blind. Took my rent money and everything. On top of everything, I lost my job on the count of not showing up. The boss got mad, and I got the ax. I tried to tell him I’d just got robbed. But he don’t care. He only cares about Jimmy. That’s his name. Jimmy the Jackass. Now all I got is my backpack and that bicycle.” He nodded toward the gray bike hanging from the hooks across the aisle. It was an off-brand decorated with ducktape and what looked like chicken wire.
“Nice bike. How long you had it?”
“Since yesterday. I traded a guy for it.”
“Cool. I guess it will help you get around from point A to point B.”
“Exactly. I just need something to help me get from A to B. Hadn’t had much luck with that lately.”
I smiled. “My name is Rainer.” I extended my hand.
He nodded, not shaking my hand. “Good meeting you. I’m Nick. That cop still walking the train?”
I looked around. “Looks to be gone.”
“Good. He was giving me a hard time. He didn’t like how long it was taking me to show him my ticket. He finally gave up. But I thought he might come back and ask me for the ticket I don’t got.” Nick laughed.
“Where you going to stay at now that you don’t have an apartment anymore?”
“Been over at the Salvation Army. But I need to get out of there. Can’t trust anybody there. They are looking to take your stuff. Not that I got much worth taking. But that don’t matter. Fools will take whatever little you got. They don’t care. I hate the city.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that.”
“How about you? What do you do?” Nick asked.
“During the day I go to school and help people relocating to the Dallas area.”
“You mean like refugees? That’s cool. Don’t care for them myself. But hey we’re all just trying to get from A to B.”
“No, not like that. I help people who are coming here because their employer is moving them here.”
“That sounds like a cool gig. Didn’t know there was such a thing.” He paused. “I was doing some web design, but that turned out to be a big lie.”
“Sorry to hear that. Sounds like you’ve had a rough time lately.”
“Yeah. It’s the city. People are always lying. Need to get to the country. Know anyone who might want a bike? I need some cash.”
The train was making good time. I had a couple of stops before I had to get on my way.
“Where you headed?” Nick asked.
“Me? Actually meeting my wife. We’re headed over to a shelter where we minister a couple of times a month.”
“Oh, that’s cool. Glad you’re doing that. I respect that kind of work. You know the church and all. I’ve got a strong faith. It keeps me going.”
“That’s good to hear my friend. Sometimes faith is all you got to lean on during rough spots like this. But hopefully, you’ll be able to get on your feet again before too long.” I wanted to be encouraging, not sure of what all was involved in his current situation. I was sure it wasn’t simple. Never is.
“I been thinking about joining the military. But I got some legal stuff to take care of first. I ain’t gonna lie. I done bad stuff. On these streets, you got to if you want to survive. Got to do what you got to do. That’s all. I’m not a bad person. I’m good, mostly. Just made some mistakes. The city is dangerous. You always got to be aware of your surroundings. Like that guy behind you. He thinks I don’t see him. But I see him eyeing my bike. He aint’ careful I may have to take care of him.” Nick paused. “If I can just get out of this city, I’ll be alright.” He mumbled what sounded like a couple of unintelligible expletives under his breath.
The train announced my stop was next. My visit with Nick was drawing to an end.
“Can I pray for you, Nick?”
“Yeah, sure. I believe in God. A prayer would be good.”
Nick and I closed our eyes and bowed our heads, and we prayed. I felt the train stop and heard the doors open and shut. Guess God intended for me to get off at the next stop all along.