24 December 2007


While waiting for my doctor appointment I am killing time at Micky D's, sipping coffee and reading a discarded newspaper. A raspy, familiar voice catches my attention. I look up to find Diamond Jim working the room. He moves from table to table, panhandling. He is much thinner than the last time I saw him, and much filthier. Diamond Jim is in his fifties, with hair to his shoulders, and an unkempt goatee. He is being peremptorally dismissed in turn by each person he hits up. Most do not look up. They shake their heads, wave their hands. He spies me and his eyes light up. "Hey, Steve!," he crows. "Steve, buddy, how you been?" "Dave," I correct him. He looks haggard and exhausted. Last time I saw him, he still had his grotesque, distended abdomen. Now he merely sports a small paunch. "Dave. That's what I said. Hey, Dave --- you got .53 cents? I need to get downtown. You have .78 cents?" "No, Jimmy. How about I buy you a burger? You look thin, Diamond." "I lost weight," he explains, as if appearing newly thin and recently losing weight are not obviously connected. "You got a dollar, Steve?" "Dave. You get your lice treatment like you were supposed to?" "Ahhh, bedbugs. I had bedbugs. Hey, you got a dollar? Gimme a dollar." "Not going to give you money, Jimmy. You know that." "Oh, man! I thought you were my friend! Won't even gimme a dollar you cheap bastard!" I check the clock. It's almost one. "Jimmy, you have an appointment at GCB today?" "Yeah at 1:30. You're cheap, Dave. I thought you were my friend." "Don't be late now. Make sure you get your meds." Movement in the parking lot catches Diamond Jim's attention. He loses interest in me, and shuffles out the door. He hits on a couple of people, is rebuffed, then heads up Victory toward GCB. He might just arrive on time. "What a loser," somebody says. It's a guy sitting two tables away. "He ask you for money?" "Yeah. He's a friend of mine." The guy smiles warily. He can't tell whether I'm kidding. "You serious?" he chuckles. "He sure didn't act like a friend. He acted like he was entitled to your money." "Oh, he knows I don't have any money. He's actually on SSDI. He has more resources than I do. He's mentally ill, and he's diabetic. He panhandles to support his smoking and drinking, but its' also a compulsive thing, the panhandling, like a game he likes to play. He won't live much longer, rate he's going." "GCB? That the psychiatric clinic on Madison? You work there?" "No. I'm a client there, actually." "Oh, sure, bud," the guy laughs. "Now I know you're pulling my leg."

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