Monday, November 3, 2008

Raven and Aries

Day 34 - Photo 34. "On any given night in America, anywhere from 700,000 to 2 million people are homeless." This, according to estimates from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. On this night, it was Raven and Aries. The pair were at a corner gas station panhandling for enough cash for a bus ride to San Francisco.

I ask Aries, right, why he would head North just as temperatures are turning cooler. It was the only time I saw him smile. "I like San Francisco." Said Aries, 24, who said he's been homeless for 11 years. I ask him why. He lowered his head, shook it and shrugged his shoulders. "Kind of a messed up childhood." He mumbles. Aries smokes hand rolled cigarettes and sips from a can of an energy drink. He scans the corner gas station, constantly shifting his gazing and keeping his meager belongings pulled close. I ask him if people were kind and police hard. "People are mostly kind. The police are okay...except in this town." His eyes scan again. "They stopped me today and told me to leave town or they'd find a reason to arrest me." Aries leaves me with Raven as he goes out to work people at the gas pumps.

Raven, 23, watches as Aries walked away. "I had I pretty screwed up life. When I hit 13 I just said, I'm outta here! Aries is my brother. I've known him for a decade. He's not really my brother. He's just the only family I got."

Aries returns empty handed and rolls another cigarette. "It's not so bad." Says Aries talking about life on the street. "You can always find some place to sleep and most of the time something to eat." His eyes continue to scan the area with an alertness that beguiles his weary appearance. I've seen this look before, it's the one soldiers wear who've learned to never drop their guard. Then for a one 1/30th of second Aries shifts his gaze skyward. He looks young and as though he's left us. And now he's back, drawing on the rolled cigarette and scanning.

Somewhere in America there's another 680,000 homeless people scanning and shifting their gaze, looking for someplace to sleep and "most of the time" finding something to eat.

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