Downtown Nashville, October 11th, a little after 4pm.
A thin man in a white t-shirt and blue jeans saunters into the alleyway, drunk. The man is a new face to me; neat and clean-cut despite smelling of whiskey. Nothing about him suggests “homeless” to me.
White Shirt had been in earlier, had tried to pick a fight with me. He was angry then, declaring that this world “fucking sucks.” He was different now, subdued.
So I speak with him. White Shirt is looking for somewhere to continue drinking after resting in his hotel. I tell him that I don’t know of any place to drink, that I commute into town for work.
White tells me how aggravating it is that nobody in town seems to know anything. The man tells me that this was his first time in Nashville, that so far he loved the city, but hated the people. I tell him that most cities are like that: the buildings may be interesting and inviting, but it’s occupants would rather you not notice them. He agrees.
I suggest that he ask the man in blue across the road, directing parking. I had spoken with Man-In-Blue in the past: if anyone knew where to find the cheapest drink in town, it would be him.
White Shirt started talking about his life, how he was travelling now that he was out of the military. His disability checks were funding both his travel and booze. I notice the chunks of flesh missing on his forearms and on his lower lip.
I suggest that next he travel through East Tennessee, I tell him that it’s “God’s country” out there.
White chuckles, telling me that he was born and raised Catholic. He finishes that thought with a shrug; I fill in the blanks. Not his country.
He tells me of the rosary he keeps hanging next to his front door back home. I tell him it sounds beautiful.
White looks me in the eye for the first time in our conversation, telling me that he’s sorry for being drunk and angry. He tells me he just doesn’t know what to do anymore. I tell him that no matter what, life is never all bad. He agrees.
We shake hands. White thanks me for showing him kindness. I tell him to have a good night.
I watch him leave. He doesn’t talk to the man in blue, he appeared to be walking back to the hotel.