11.000 Pesos

I have 11.000 pesos in my wallet and there is a man
with no body beneath his knees
sitting on the ground in the middle of the bike lane.
“Sitting” is not quite the word, his left palm
flat on the cracked pavement in front of him
like a baby in position
but too tired to crawl.
There is trash spilled from the side of the road–
torn open by some dog or man searching for a bone–
spread all around him.
His right palm and chin are faced up.
He does not ask for money,
his body language alone requesting help.
He makes eye contact with everyone he can.
He is full grown
but his hands are so small.

On the crowded Transmilenio,
a man boards the bus asking for the people’s attention.
He says he is sorry, that he knows this is bothersome
but he has no other alternative.
He lost his job and cannot find another one.
It’s not fair to his child that he cannot feed him.
Any little bit would be a great help, he says.
He is not selling anything like many do.
He is not even selling his story with gusto or dramatics.
He is selling his pride.
He is not selling anything.

We, change-bearing passengers,
have no way to know is he even has a child:
if he will buy food or drugs,
if he needs or just wants.

I have 11.000 pesos in my wallet
and I don’t know if I will buy food or drugs,
if I buy something because it is a need or just a want,
if every time I eat a piece of bread when I am not really hungry
someone’s stomach eating itself a bit more
should be on my conscience.

Them being born without,
me being born with:
isn’t that just how the cards fall?

One being born with,
one being born without:
isn’t that how a good man falls?

It is so much easier to suspect these people
are con-artists and liars,
fuck-ups and free-loaders,
than to put ourselves in their lack of shoes.
It is easier to suspect that they don’t deserve our charity,
than to wonder if we deserve what is ours.

So we, with pockets full of more than crumbs,
pretend we don’t see them;
stare straight ahead as they graze their fingers
along our pant legs.
We pretend we don’t hear them,
use our headphones–
which cost more than they will have all month for food–
as the culprit for our deafness.

It is easier to not see them at all,
than to address the disparities between us.
It is easier to feel entitled,
hateful, inculpable.
It makes it easier
to sleep at night.


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