By Jacqueline Evans
I smelled Leo before I actually saw him. Urine, shit, sweat and decay; the now familiar vaporous cocktail of a New York City street resident in the summer heat that has become a regular part of my everyday life since moving here from California 5 months ago.
He stood motionless on the 4th step from the bottom of the subway stairs, clutching the handrail with one hand, a pair of crutches on the step above him in the other. Clearly he was stuck there, frozen in place by something unseen while the world busily streamed past him, subway passengers rushing to get to whatever was next. The next train, the next appointment, the next big deal. Rushing, pushing, clawing, leaning into the next more-important-than-the-last thing that takes us further from each other and closer to ourselves. I held my breath and prepared to descend the steps quickly past him into the hot platform like everyone else. I knew already that I wouldn’t exhale until I was in the air-conditioned subway car, safe from the smell.
Each one of us probably believes that we possess our own fair amount of altruism, that if someone were obviously in need, we would do whatever was necessary to help. At least I know I do. Despite this, I wouldn’t have stopped to help Leo that day if we hadn’t made eye contact. Continue Reading…