Robert

He stated that there were a lot of people in the world, homeless or otherwise, who weren’t in their right mind.

I met Robert while I was walking to my train after a Meetup event. He told me I had a pretty smile and asked for money.
I didn’t have any cash and I told him so. As he saw me passing by a store window and looking hungrily in, he asked if I could get him some food instead. I obliged and asked what he would like, thinking I could also get something for myself. He asked for a Gatorade, macaroni and cheese and a meatball and I went in to fetch the requested food. I got two mac and cheeses along with the meatball and Gatorade, one was for me. The food was priced modestly.
As the cashier rang me up I asked for two bags.
“Oh, is this for the guy outside?” she asked. She was young, probably my age. I nodded yes.
“He’s a good soul,” she replied.
I gave him the food and timidly asked if I could interview him.
He was a stout man with a toothy grin and a child-like sense of wonder.
He told me I looked like Strawberry Shortcake.
When I told him I was a journalist, he seemed excited.
“Oh boy,” he said, “You’re gonna love me.” He started in on his story before I could even get my notebook out, but when I asked if I could record him he was hesitant. He said no and I tried my best to capture his fast-moving words in my notebook.
Robert was adopted at three-weeks-old. His adopted father ran a winery in Brooklyn. He lived in a nice house with many adopted siblings. He described the house with zealous, as though his upbringing had been something of a fairy tale, and, in some ways, it reminded me of Cinderella.
Robert was a foster-child. His adopted parents decided to keep him, he said, because no one else wanted him. Or at least, that’s what they later told him. At ten, his parents told him he wasn’t their child. He said the truth had felt like a betrayal. His parents said things like, “you’re lucky to live in this house.” He was much younger than all of his adopted sibling, most of whom were adults by the time he was 10.
So Robert grew up doing a lot of chores. He put up Christmas lights, cleaned the pool, painted the house and worked on the garden. The house took a lot of upkeep, he said. But the chore he remembered most was making wine.
Robert’s father ran and operated a winery.
His brother even wrote a book about it called “Little Old Winemaker,” Robert said.
Robert said he’d like to read the book. To see whether he was included in it.
When Robert’s parents died, his siblings stopped speaking to him, he said.
He claimed they wouldn’t let him attend his mother’s funeral. When he had gone to his father’s funeral, he said his siblings had treated him poorly.
He didn’t get any money after his parents had died. He said his siblings had stated that he wasn’t their family and he hasn’t seen them in years.
Robert also mentioned that he used to have a drug problem. At 11-years-old his almost grown sister had given him a joint, he said. His older brother also used to take him along when he went to buy drugs.
Robert was adamant about his current soberness. “I like being sober,” he said. “It’s hard enough being homeless.”
Robert was forthcoming about the difficulties of homelessness. He stated that there were a lot of people in the world, homeless or otherwise, who weren’t in their right mind. He told me that serial killers in major cities across the U.S. make a habit of picking on the homeless.
He said he didn’t sleep in shelters because they were too dangerous.
When he did sleep, he stated, that it was scary. People come up to him, they touch him, he said.
“I’ve had cops come at me and beat my feet with their batons. It made it hard for me to walk,” he said.
Our conversation ended when I tried to push further about his relationship with his siblings.
I asked if they resented him because he became addicted to drugs.
Robert politely told me that it was getting cold and he’d like to eat his meal.
So I bid him goodbye and left toward my subway stop.

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