When Anderson, homeless on the streets of Seattle, first spies Josh, a volunteer at TeenCare, he immediately falls for him, even though TeenCare forbids client/volunteer interaction. Anderson thinks: "And speaking of noticed, I think I was, just a few minutes ago. One of the volunteers was coming by and we locked eyes. You know, the way two guys do. Two gay guys, anyway, who like what they see. It's not like a casual glance -- those only last for a second or maybe two at the most -- but when two gay dudes notice each other, man, that eye-to-eye lingers. You know what I'm sayin'?
"And that boy? He was fine. Or to roll back to one of my mama's expressions from back in her day -- he was fly."
In spite of the youth center's policy of volunteers and clients interacting beyond the most superficial ways, will love discover a way around the policy, so Josh and Anderson can be together?
So today marks a couple of anniversaries. First, it’s the eve of my birthday. Tomorrow, good old Anderson will turn twenty-one years old. How did I get here so fast? And second, this could very well be my last meal at TeenCare. See they have an age limit here -- twenty-one -- and I will cross that line at midnight tonight. Not that they check IDs or anything before they shovel whatever they’re serving that day onto your tray, but still, it’s bound to catch up with me sooner or later.
I’ve seen them turn people away. Old people, like in their late twenties.
More’s the pity, as my mama, back in South Center, used to say, about everything from a stain on your new shirt to the death of her daddy in Alabama. Mama also liked to sing along with Linda Ronstadt on the radio back in the day, “Poor Poor Pitiful Me.”
Mama wasn’t much for feeling sorry for yourself.
But damn! I will miss coming to TeenCare for sure. Not only for the food, but also for the company. Everyone who lines up outside their doors knows what it’s like to live on the streets. They understand what it feels like to wonder where your next meal is coming from. They’ve been there -- sleeping under a highway overpass when it’s pouring down rain and you do your best to try and catch a few zzz’s while not shivering too much.
They get me. It’s a great place to come to not be judged.
To not be invisible ...
See, that’s the worst part of being homeless -- being invisible. People on the streets of downtown Seattle (and other places, too, I imagine) can just walk right by you as if you weren’t there. That’s one of the hardest things. That you don’t count. You don’t matter enough to even be fuckin’ seen.
No one can understand that feeling unless they’ve been there.
Walk through the doors of TeenCare and you don’t feel that way. You feel warm, you feel welcome, you feel noticed.
And speaking of noticed, I think I was, just a few minutes ago. One of the volunteers was coming by and we locked eyes. You know, the way two guys do. Two gay guys, anyway, who like what they see. It’s not like a casual glance -- those only last for a second or maybe two at the most -- but when two gay dudes notice each other, man, that eye-to-eye shit lingers. You know what I’m sayin’?
And that white boy? He was fine. Or to roll back to one of my mama’s expressions from back in her day -- he was fly.
I shake my head. He had everything I like in a man. He was on the small side, but built, powerful, you know? Like a little redheaded fireplug. And those tats! Oh man, I love the tats and he had them in spades, up and down both arms. Man, if I could afford that shit, I’d have the same.
And when he looked at me? I knew. He liked what he saw too. But these workers, they keep a professional distance. They think we don’t know about that rule, but we do. I’m sure their saying goes something like this: We keep this distance, just so no one gets uncomfortable.