So the house we used to rent – just a handful of blocks east of here – was close enough to some super crappy neighborhoods that the local crackhead, Clarence, would frequently wander onto our porch and ask for change, cigarettes, booze, whatever. I found a post I made about him and that neighborhood in 2005 during my updates of old LiveJournal entries that are missing titles or tags. Once we crossed over College Ave, we haven’t seen him in over a year.
I was sitting at the table, searching PurlSoho (gee, isn’t it nice to be me?) when I saw someone out of the corner of my eye coming up to the door. Since it’s well after 10 pm I just assumed it was Cavan. As the dogs started to bark, I shouted at them to stop. Then I realized there was a stranger standing there with a piece of paper in his hand. Immediately I knew it was Clarence. I haven’t seen him in a while, but I could tell it was him.
You have to hand it to him, though; Clarence always had a different story every time he came to the old house. Sometimes it was that he needed food for his dogs or his kids. Sometimes it had something to do with a medical condition and how he had to travel some extensive bus route to get to a doctor. Tonight he told me his tools were in his truck and he’d run out of gas. He said he had four kids and the tools in his truck are his livelihood. He said something about people calling the police on him and how he just needed, like, eight bucks to get home.
I know where he lives. And I know it wouldn’t cost eight dollars to get there. I mentioned that I used to live a couple of blocks from him and he started talking about how I must have seen him around then, completely ignoring the subtle point I was trying to make that he didn’t need money for gas to get home.
So here’s the requisite white liberal disclaimer: I am a compassionate person. I feel for people in bad situations who can’t seem to get anywhere. I spent several years of my young adult life feeling like I was never going to get ahead. I worked two full time jobs, 80 hours per week, at one point with barely enough time to sleep, but I know I should be happy I at least had a roof over my head. Clarence probably can’t even get a job. He’s strung out and in a really bad place and has been there for years. Going to door to door with sob stories has worked for him thus far, so if it ain’t broke . . .
But. But, but, but. I wish he’d never crossed over College. I feel totally different in my house now. I don’t feel safe. I know he was casing the place, trying to peek in the windows to see what sort of things we had. The dude’s a crackhead. I’m not stupid. I could smell the booze on his breath, and watched him watching me, watching the dogs, looking inside the house.
He didn’t recognize me. I should have slammed the door in his face. But I gave him some change, muttering something about how I never have cash on me. This is going to make me sound like such an asshole, but like a lost puppy, he’s just going to keep coming back. And here it is, almost eleven on a Saturday night and I’m home by myself and he knows it. I almost called Cavan to see when he’d be home.
I feel like such a dick. My issue with Clarence has nothing to do with race or skin color or sides of town. I didn’t like a crackhead coming to the dump I used to live in, and I don’t like a crackhead coming to the house where I live now. Charlie and I have both worked really hard to get to the point where we can leave our windows open at night and not be worried someone will try to climb in and steal our television.
And if you think I’m just paranoid, you should talk to two of the guys from work who live down the street from him. He liberated a few of their things, once got beat up on Chris’s front porch by some drug dealers to whom he owed money, and let himself into Matt’s house a couple of times when the door was unlocked to try and get alcohol.