Scene :: Mar Vista, Oct 19, 2013

"Hey man, how you doin'?" he asks me.
"I'm good," I say, "thanks."
"You gotta dollar?"
"Naw, I don't have one."
He's standing at the door to the post office, greeting everybody who walks out in a voice that's loud enough to be heard but not so loud as to make it impossible to pretend you didn't hear him. I have a bag of clothes in my hand because I'm walking next door to donate them, and the irony of what I'm doing strikes me full-on. As I walk past him, I hear him greet the next couple walking out, and I can smell him. It's a quiet Saturday, a man in the post office was exclaiming to the clerk that he'd never seen it that busy, as though everybody thought the post office closed at 2:00 pm. And there is this man, tightly matted dreads, worn pants, a battered beanie, a beard, standing at the door to the post office asking for a dollar.

I went to a talk last week where the speaker spoke about his imagination of a revolutionary humanism, a world in which exchange value was more in line with the use value of things, one in which money no longer stood as a proxy for social power. It was an inspiring talk, in that best sense of giving one breath to speak, but I wondered at myself: At my ability to tell a man on the street in shabby, unwashed clothes that I didn't have a dollar, even as I was walking to give away a bag of clothing. What saddened me most was not the substance of my response so much as it was how easy it was.
"Naw," as I let my voice shift into a different register, "I don't have one."

As I walked back to the car on the other side of the parking lot, I heard his voice again, addressing another, "Hey man, how you doin'?"


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