It was about 12:30/1am as we drove up the gravel alleyway towards the main road. A mini van was parked at an angle to T's car and so we stopped for fear they were messing with our FNB stuff. As I looked over at the FNB yard and I saw a big orange covered lump and a man crouching over it. God only knows what possesses me to jump out of a car, in a dangerous spot, and approach two strange men without fear or judgement. I just do it. In my mind is not the thought 'don't talk to strangers' or 'they could hurt you'. . . its more like a childs 'what the heck is big orange and round?' or even worse 'I wonder if anyone over there is hungry?'.
I walked at an incredibly fast pace, which took by shock the man crouching, and started to realize what was under the bright orange sleeping bag. I introduced myself to the young gentleman as he stood up and I crouched down over the head and shoulder curled out of the orange cover. I looked down at the beautiful tan arm and saw the Arch, The Gateway to The West, with STL in the middle. And I felt defeated "Oh, No. . . Chucky. . . Hey, Chucky... You okay man?" When he heard my voice he looked up and around at me with his eyes squinting from the alcohol that streamed through his every vein and pore. Somehow he saw me... Somehow he knew it was me, and then he fell back, face first, into the dirty sand. "Ooooo...that hurt" went around.
As my friend walked over he asked what was going on. I introduced him to the young man and Chucky, who again twirled his head around on his neck like a strange carnival toy. Drool hanging from his mouth, one eye now plastered shut with dirt, tears streaming down his face. He asked us just to leave him alone. I tried repeatedly to explain to him the dangers of sleeping in the middle of our feeding space covered in bright orange... within minutes he would be taken to jail. Like a tired little five year old he looks up at me "Am I in trouble? Was I bad? Can't I just go to sleep?" I smile and laugh a little like a proud mother and reassure him that he can sleep well and safe if he just moves to our secret spot around the corner. This perks his interest.
Now that the Orange has been figured out... I move to my next focus. "Are you hungry?" This is always where I loose Chucky. He holds his starving belly and mumbles how many days it has been since he has eaten. They know, they all know, how mad I get when I hear they haven't eaten in 3-4 or more days. So like children they put their heads and eyes down and mumble the days it has been. I know Chucky... He probably hasn't eaten since the last time I saw him over a week ago. Chucky fuels his entire body, all the time, on alcohol. He is one of the true runners. . . he drinks his hard "You know what I love more than anything? I LOVE my Whiskey!" and he fills his day with Beer. "You know why I drink?" . . . he asks us this while he is at least sitting up. Bare chested and covered in Tattoos, he reaches his arm out and fans his hand on the concrete. "Because it makes everything So Soft!" with that he smooths his hand into and along the hard ground, fingers finding tiny little hidden concrete crevices . . .somehow turning it to sponge in our imaginations. "So Soft" He repeats as if petting a kitten. "So Soft."
I love Chucky. Maybe because I know how bad he is. I see it in his eyes, even though they are slits. I see it in his posture, I see it in the uncontrolled energy that comes out of him. . . but when you enter the private 'bedroom' of a sleeping person. . . you sometimes stumble upon the inner child while the adult still sleeps. Especially on the streets late at night with the drunk and drug induced homeless. Granted he will jump up if woken and try to attack. . . but for some reason with me he turns into a child and asks for my forgiveness. I laugh at him with nothing but love and test all his boundaries to see how far and deep I can trigger his heart without losing him. He is a tough boy and I have the advantage because he is always so friggin drunk.
Chucky only eats about once every four days. The food he eats has to be incredibly processed for his body to even be able to utilize it. . . however he usually just gets sick as his body rejects the nourishment and demands more alcohol. Getting him to drink a half a glass of water on any given day is like asking him for blood. He refuses and tells me it "Tastes Bad". I assure him I have slipped some Vodka in it... but he knows me well enough not to trust that. He rolls in his seated position, his head doing some pretty scary dips and dives, sending him back every now and again. He starts digging in his pocket and pulls out a crumpled resemblance of red topped matches which he holds precariously in his curled fingers. Again mumbling "Does anyone have a . . ." and he falls back. I laugh. . ."Chucky, don't you have anything to light on fire?" . . . he looks at me and in a reflective tone "If someone gave me a cigarette I would!" We all giggle slightly "Theres our Chucky!"
By this point in time there are five of us sitting around Chucky. Myself and my friend, the two young concerned men who were initially there, and another homeless guy who just happened to be sitting on a bench an hour earlier talking to Chucky. I was standing front and center looking down on him with two men on either side of me. Luckily we had all our FNB stuff there so I started pouring water for the men and trying to pass on the donated canned goods. The other homeless guy whips a cigarette from the air and dances it on his knee. "You can have this one if you drink two huge gulps of that water." We throw this around for a bit and decide half the bottle will be better. It takes a few tries, but then finally he drinks it, throws the bottle down, and makes a horrible face complaining "That sh#@ tastes f^@#ing disgusting!" We all laugh in a worried way and look at each other as a cigarette goes flying through the air.
It takes Chucky about thirty minutes to sit up on his own. Once he does he starts crying and telling us how 'nobody loves' him. I laugh and reassure him that is far from true. "Right here we have five people who do not even know you who love you. People who are sitting here by your side caring about whether or not you make it." Our crazy crack head pizza scam man shows up to hug my friend (for buying him a pizza) "Look! Now we are six!" . . . the pizza scam man says in his naive bug eyed quiet way " I don't Love him." Honest and True like a good Pastor's son. . . not really. I glare at him and he catches on. "Oh, okay. I love you." he looks at me and whispers, 'But I really don't' And then he disappears as fast as he came. Chucky did not notice.
Eventually the two young men who initially put the sleeping bag over Chucky, leave with gracious goodbyes. T and a friend show up and and we all sit around a bit more. We got Chucky to move. We set him up in the back behind the building in a little cubby hole. He curled up under his orange sleeping bag and set his beer in the corner with a big piece of cardboard that read "Chucky Seven People Loved You Tonight" and little Hearts that read things like "We Love You More Than Whiskey", "Your Baby Girl Loves You", "St. Louie Loves You". . .
I put the cap of the waterbottle that he would not drink in my pocket and pray for Chucky regularly. While driving down US1 I saw him two days ago... Chucky is still alive, barely. Poor Chucky simply floats around town getting himself in and out of trouble for one reason and one reason only... he doesn't believe anyone loves him.