This was only the beginning

It was tough for me to sell my papers and my books because of COVID-19. It was so strange to stand at my post at the top of Gallery Place Metro Station in downtown D.C., and no one came up the escalator for me to say, “Good morning, have a blessed day. Do not let Metro take your spirit away.”

My days and my nights were really boring. I felt like the world was coming to an end. I was sleeping out on the bench by the bank Suntrust. I was scared to take food from people passing. They would ask, “Do you want something to eat?” I was really hungry, but I was scared because they were saying on the news to stay six feet apart — don’t eat from people you don’t know.

I heard the news from a TV in the basement of a church on 13th Street where homeless people could go and eat and shower, and also they give out masks. They would tell you to be safe out there on the street.

It meant a lot to me that the guy from the restaurant Zaytinya was feeding us homeless folks good, hot food. They went around in Jeeps passing out food to those who of us living on the street.

Sleep was hard. Honestly, I couldn’t actually sleep, because I was thinking something bad could really happen. I was worried about Covid. I was lying there with one eye open, one eye closed, not really getting any rest.

Then I saw some people that came by and they were bringing me food and telling me to be real careful because of the march. They say, “Hey, you seen the news? Look like a march coming. Be careful man.”

A pastor from another church offered to rent me a hotel room. He got me a room with all clean sheets and towels and soaps, right down the street from the White House.

That’s when I looked out my hotel window, facing right at the White House. I start seeing a lot of people around there yelling, hollering, holding signs about Trump. People passing out fliers.

As I came out of my hotel room to sell my papers at the Metro, there a group of guys come up the block and then coming out the Metro — you couldn’t really see their faces. People were scared — the ones in black outfits were throwing bottles, rocks and splashing paint.

I was kind of scared. One of my friends who work around the corner in the Portrait Gallery come out and told me to be careful because the Proud Boys were here.

There was the Klan too. You couldn’t see their faces. I went over to Ella’s and there was a few of them there, eating.

When I walked out of Ella’s, I looked out at H Street and a whole bunch of angry people coming. They had sledge hammers, screwdrivers and crowbars. I ain’t ask them nothin’ but I was curious why they had it.

I was sitting, and then people started smashing the windows at H&M. I say to myself, “This is getting hectic. You don’t know if they gonna hit you with one of them tools.” Then it got so crowded — more people than I had seen all my years at Mardi Gras, and they start smashing all kinds of glasses — jewelry stores, CVS, Zara, Gap.

It was funny being there, me being an ex-con. It tempted me to go with the crowd and get me some things I could use and things I could get out and sell. But I did not go. I was too afraid the camera would see me and then I would be on the news and they’d say, “Man wanted for looting!”

I was so scared. I’ve finished parole now, and I ain’t never going back to that life.

The sound of the glass shattering sounded like gunshots. I thought it was gunshots. But it was the police shooting them rubber bullets down there by Gucci. So many people charging into the store — masses really — and police try to stop them but they didn’t have the power and the rioters still got in.

I saw shirts and shoes, a lot of clothes in the street but I didn’t touch them.

I was really scared—it was a big stress to me, even though I’m from the street.

Little did I know this was only the beginning.

Issues |Living Unsheltered

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