ray, “just two more weeks in the cold”

having so little free time in new york city is a crime. it seems the only opportunities that i have to take pictures come as i walk from point A to point B. last friday, walking from grand central to point B, i was on the lookout for some interesting subjects. all i could see were people with shopping bags, couples holding hands, delivery boys on bicycles, street vendors and people huddled against the bitter cold. BORING.

then i walked by ray huddled in a doorway adjacent to a restaurant. as always, i got about 20 feet past him and stopped in my tracks. i went through the usual internal dialog: if you don’t ask him you’ll never know. you’ll be kicking yourself for not doing it. it couldn’t hurt to try. you never know, the shot could turn out great. i looped back and approached him. he recoiled.

“are you homeless?”, i asked.

“no…..well, kind of. just two more weeks in the cold.” he said with a smile. i thought to myself, what the hell does this guy have to smile about?

i shook his hand (always a risky game time decision, cause you never know where a person’s hands have been) and we struck up a conversation. he told me that the shelter was full and wouldn’t have vacancy for another two weeks, so he was squatting in this doorway outside a restaurant. he was lucky enough to find a place that would give him food and let him use their bathroom. i can’t imagine living like that. so many people do it everyday though. he went on to tell me that he had moved from minnesota 20 years ago, but had never managed to establish himself. “i ended up on the street. it just happened.”

i took some shots, gave him $5 and shook his hand again. i made sure to tell him to “take care and stay warm”, cause who the hell knows if i’ll ever see him again or if he’ll even survive the winter? morbid but true.

it was 30 degrees that night.

i always get chills when i pass the spots where i have these conversations. where are they now? are they okay? will i ever see them again?


~ by jacobbmurphy on December 15, 2009.

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