The Incidental Man was a peaceful man, at least he was when I last saw him. It was on Albuquerque’s answer to Skid Row, yet another location that had once served him in another life, one among many that he had experienced. He served time on life’s tumultuous roller coaster — now a crest, now a trough, now a crest… and finally came to rest solidly in a trough with no prospect of another crest to follow.

There were many street corners to choose from, but one corner was his because it is simply the one he chose to be on. It was his own, and everyone knew it. Nobody was ever so crass as to just suddenly attempt to invade his corner or dare steal from him; that was just the code of living on the street among a bevy of other addicts — don’t lock eyes with anyone!

Homeless in Albuquerque. Photo by Geo Hand.

There was a vestige of pride in knowing the street corner had become his, and he thumped his chest ever so slightly at anyone that broke the ‘stare limit’ at his corner. The stare limit was just another code of the street that every other sidewalk dweller was kindly obligated to abide by.

‘Folks of the Street,’ is that what they really were? I mean, the notion that any of them actually touched the street except to cross to another sidewalk is not folly; they were more like ‘sidewalk people.’ They strolled, and they met each other there. They encouraged each other, and they likened more so to be so-named ‘sidewalk people,’ would that I could say.

Chivalry, the saintly acts of knights, is not dead. Photo by Geo

If the street codes were to be arranged in descending order of importance, the rule on top would be “never covet thy neighbor’s worldly possessions (stuff). We all live in a material world, but there existed no privilege to covet others’ personal belongings.

I’m put in mind of the classic hobo of yore: a dirty and portly fellow who carried his belongings tied in a bundle and fastened to the end of a long stick that he toted over his shoulder. The stick and bundle have long since given way to the market shopping cart. With skill, one could pack it full to carry upwards of 300+ pounds — certainly you jest!

A substantially sour face is all that this homeless brother had to offer me. Photo by George Hand.

A spirited vagrant could pack two carts with their material world… push one cart with one hand while simultaneously pulling the second cart with the other, all over a distance of some miles. The Incidental Man was in awe of the determination of his peers who resolved to wrangle such double-decker transport of personal goods.

The shame of the Incidental Man followed him all the way to a street corner on skid row, the farthest street corner he could find. There he became a new man; that is to say, he felt like one, and others found him to be that way. He was a brand-spanking, shiny-new man once he relinquished and dedicated himself to crank and H. Together again for the first time in his incidental world. The mix was common but devastated his part-time existence.

Addiction to strong opiates is often the driver for many of these homeless brothers and sisters. Image by George Hand

His crime, for which he was federally convicted, was against the innocence of children, a crime that, as an uncle to his brother’s precious children, forbade him from ever even speaking their lovely names again. Oh, how sorry-sorry he was that he had been caught. Beyond that, he was totally without compunction.

Yep, how perfect his life had been in surroundings that enabled him to partake in heinous crimes of the flesh as he pleased. He resigned many times to the notion that all men felt the way he did about it, and they were destined to admit it if only they had the courage to come clean to their peers. His was a morbid and unholy thought process.

He was banned from family, room, and board. Banned thoroughly and completely from his coveted role as uncle. He was compromised and left only to vocalize his avid disdain for the rest of us sinners.

The struggle is real. Photo by Geo.

He played ball with his life, and after his third strike, he was sent to the benches — forever.

“What brings you to our neck of the woods, mate?” once asked an incidental neighbor.”

The Incidental Man was more inclined than the Tower of Pisa to render any response; to some wayward bum who was more nosey than compassionate. Incidental man knew what he was, another fallen uncle and addict of hard opiates, if you please. He was as he always was —totally disinclined to answer questions about his personal self.

A homeless person was a detestable thing to be in the man’s eye. To be homeless and addicted was a double whammy in a fickle life. The media routinely made reference to his sort of folk with such euphemisms as:

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Addiction to strong opiates is often the driver for many of these homeless brothers. Photo by Geo Hand.

“Local Gentry of pallid means” or “Local Gentry of Incidental Leisure.” I once heard: “structurally challenged” or even “Lodging Impaired.” When once queried about the wreckage he had become, he replied:

“It’s all good; folks only have low expectations of the poor, so why try?”

To be truly homeless was such a detestable thing as to fall just short of causing a riot among the gentry. Most hated their lives on the sidewalks, yet they were content with their set itinerary of:

  • Wake up from slumber in a ragged tent
  • Exit said tent and stroll to the welfare office to gain more free meal tickets.
  • Obtain and cash Social Security check(s)
  • Purchase narcotics
  • Return to tent
  • Get ‘fixed’ (inject self with schedule two opiate)
  • Nod off to an unproductive sleep while standing
To crank or not to crank — advantage: crank! Photo by Geo Hand

Come to think of it, that was for all in tents and porpoises the same itinerary adopted by our Incidental Man, who by then had just returned to his tent with some adipose items of fast food and a fix — damn the food, he only had eyes for his one remaining true love — the fix.

We don’t truly know him, so just refer to him as: “Incidental Man.” There lay the all-important food recently acquired from stamps, but the Incidental Man was far, far too much in love and infatuation that he only had eyes for her —his mistress fix.

On that rare night, he rudely dissed his supper so’s to apply all of his attention to his lover — the fix. That rare night he couldn’t get her out of his mind and skin, wanting her more than ever.

Young homeless love. Photo by Geo.

“Fain would I fathom thy nature specific,” he insisted of his disease, for she was his one and only star that gleamed on that opaque night. He declared his love for her by partaking in more and more of her… but that was a cleverly insipid night of shining star nights.

His view turned into a foggy fuzz; the scene was flipping from end over end. His core was cautious… to the core it was cautious… he vomited down to the very bilious lining of his stomach. This was a new experience for him. He prayed to her with all his might as his eyes roll back in his head.

“… need some Naloxone here stat!” bellowed a nondescript rescue worker. “Gonna need yet another shot of that over here!” he barked.

The brilliant star in the coal-black sky for the Incidental man stutter-stepped and dwindled. It shriveled and blinked a pitiful blink, then it died.

The mad twinkle faded so that it ceased to exist. That was all she wrote. A doctor queried the rescue workers for more information on the departed:

“We don’t know, doctor… we simply don’t know. He was too soon to die before we had a chance to pose a single question to him”. The local gentry had no answer of any substance. We ask who knew his name, but again no clues. They said they just called him ‘mate’ for fault of any other name for him.”

And the doctor looked at the empty form field for identification of the patient and simply wrote:

“Incidental Man.”