Room for One More

 

Downtown Hyannis is a mecca for the homeless.  There are bus services and social services, including the only overnight shelter for adults on Cape Cod, all within walking distance for most.  Social services also include transitional assistance, Social Security Administration, unemployment, disability services, legal aid, community action, soup kitchens, thrift shops, food pantries, Red Cross, Catholic Social Services, the Immigration Center, federal health clinics, clinics for treating addiction, etc.  There are a fair number of rooms for rent and lesser expensive hotel rooms off-season.  In the winter especially, one can easily spot those without permanent abodes.

When driving through routinely, one may even come across the same individuals over and over again.  One man carries a long-hike backpack.  I remember him because he looks Asian and that is fairly uncommon.  He wears a bulky green army jacket, construction boots and glasses.  He has a long Fu Manchu.  I have seen him walking Main Street on the many trips through on my way to the pool.

Recently, I saw him outside at the parking lot of my pool.  The next time I saw him inside, then exiting the building.  Today, I almost didn’t recognize him poolside.  It was the first time I saw him without the bulky winter coat.  He is razor-thin, I’d guess about 90 pounds.  He wore jeans, a long-sleeve shirt, bright yellow suspenders, and was barefoot.

He laid on the cabana lounge chair flat on his back and gazed up into the screen of a cell phone.  He unusually faced away from the pool.  Later, he pulled out a clipboard and pencil out of his bag.  “A writer” I thought.  He walked over to the lifeguard and showed him the clipboard and made a few gestures with his hands without uttering a sound.  He left and came back carrying a steaming to-go cup.  Morning java I assume, the way most people start their day.

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True Hero

lifesaverA mother and son entered the pool area. The young adult son seemed non-verbal and avoided eye contact. As I was just thinking – no rest for the weary – Mother went straight to a cabana lounge chair, stretched out flat, and immediately closed her eyes. The boy went straight to the water, carrying a bag. Soon, the boy had his collection in hand and a system. He spent a good deal of time carefully moving a small pile of prized possessions from one side of the pool to another. He walked while doing this and never submerged himself in the water. This occupied him for some time.  In one of his crossings, one item fell to the bottom of the pool. He was disturbed as evidenced by an increased frequency in soft moans, which became a cry for help. I looked over and Mother’s eyes remained closed. As I was wondering what to do, a girl was swimming by and noticed the dilemma. I guessed her to be about seven years old. Although she didn’t know this boy and he was different, she took quick personal action, donned her swimming goggles, and dove underwater to fetch the item in question. The boy was immediately calmed and she went about her business as though nothing happened. Another day saved.

Seeing Is Believing

swimmer-1864303_960_720I always knew there was an outdoor pool where I swim. For the first little while, I did not go to it. One day, when the adult swimming lanes were all occupied inside, I decided to have a look at the outdoor pool. It was a sunny day with a vivid blue sky and plenty of white puffy clouds. The pool was more substantial than I imagined but it did not offer lap lanes. At five feet, the water was plenty deep for a great swim. The pool was mostly empty as most guests outside were there for the sun, not the water.

I entered the cool water and felt immensely happy. Just one other occupant and he didn’t appear to be a lap swimmer. As I took my space and moved back and forth in the water, the other guest stayed close to the edge of the pool. Before long, I noticed his arms moving under the water and in quick fashion, he raised one hand above the surface with the prize in his hand, his bathing suit.

In a split second decision, I looked away quickly and decided not to let this disturb me. The lifeguard was in place close by and after all, the other guest wasn’t actually threatening me. I continued my laps without missing a beat.

Some weeks later, I was alone in the hot tub. I looked up to see this same guest walking towards me to enter the hot tub. What to do? I looked in his direction again and noticed he wore the same brown swimsuit he had held in his hand that day, like a prize. On closer inspection I could see he donned a second, longer green suit beneath the first one. I giggled to myself and assume this had been the case the day I saw him holding the suit in his hand above the water’s surface. I started to wonder if he did this for the “shock value” but realized there are some things in life I will never know with absolute certainty. I did take away a lesson about making assumptions and decided that going forward, seeing is believing.

Double Vision

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There was a select small crowd at the pool on this fine Sunday morning. I was making laps, at the same time, observing strangers around me. One thin, haggard-looking woman caught my attention. I first noticed two large patches completely covering her shins, like a second set of skin used for healing ulcers. She sat on a lounge chair across from me with her knees bent. Her body was almost as narrow as her bent limbs. She had shoulder length tousled hair. I quickly looked away.

Just a few minutes later, I lifted my gauze in her direction. I was amazed to see a woman of very similar stature, pencil-thin with scarecrow limbs. I saw that she had a state of the art hair cut. She was about 60 and her short boyish cut was imp-like in the front with bangs, long and layered. A waiter was serving her lunch and they were deep in conversation. There was no sign of the first woman I had observed in the very same pool-side lounge chair. The “new” woman had two small, square bandages, one on each shin.