Siege Notes, July 24: On the Fringe

The day before yesterday a lone police cruiser was moving slowly past the former Apple store, now shrine to George Floyd,  around 10 PM. Then I saw a very young woman with shimmering blonde hair, sitting in the passenger seat. I wondered for a moment if someone had gotten hold of a police car and gone joyriding. Something was off.
A single cruiser can’t operate unmolested in and around antifa territory and this one was close.

“I know you ain’t looking for me…” a negro bellowed from somewhere.

The girl scanned the crowd with a look of concern; the cop’s bald head low and dark on his side as he gingerly made his way through the hostile ground. It only occurred to me a moment later this had to be a crime victim and cop looking for a suspect–or missing person.

I gave a homeless guy a sympathetic look as I ducked into the 7/11 on 4th and Taylor downtown. In normal times its corner is dominated by the hardest homeless cases; now it operates on the edge and sometimes in the midst of our nightly riots. Inside an ugly little black teenager, odd looking and sounding with an accent I can’t place, is threatening to start breaking stuff over something or other. A motley cast of antifa and assorted weirdos line up, observing social distancing. I bought a pack of cigarettes from an exhausted Arab, watching his screen of multiple security cameras through weary, bloodshot eyes.

The panhandler had made me with that damn sympathetic look I gave him, and promptly accosted me on the way out.
“Need a light?” He asks.
“Thanks I got it.” I say.
Needing a break and always looking to blend in, I sat with him for a bit. He wasn’t crazy, but an absolute physical wreck. Cancer is eating him from the inside out he tells me, and he can’t get treatment. He’s making his pitch for charity before asking outright. There are bank-shot panhandler appeals–recently a homeless guy handed me a dime, and asked for a dollar. This guy’s thing is more of a long-sell, or at least he had me pegged for it.

“These other guys, they can’t prove it.” He says of other panhandlers’ woe. “I can.” He pulls up his pant leg and shows me a withered calf splotched with little dark clouds of melanoma.
He needs fifteen dollars for a bed, he says and I give him ten.
“We should be able to raise you five more dollars.” I say. He’s eying the twenty I wasn’t willing to give him. “Put out a cup or something. All these people.”
He chortles with a rheumy thump
“These people?”
“Nobody’s giving you money?”
“Hell no.”
“Well there’s all that food, that’s pretty cool?” Antifa’s “Riot Ribs” grill-tent cooks up barbecue and hands out food all day.
“I haven’t gotten any. All that food and I haven’t got shit. These fuckers.”
He stops a light-skinned young negro but doesn’t get far before the man says, with neither disdain nor sympathy, “I haven’t got any money”, and rolls.
“See what I mean?” He laughs, with as much good nature as he can muster.
I took back my ten, gave him the twenty, and waded back into the night.

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