"Good morning have you been here all night" I asked as I walked over to a homeless man I haven't seen in these parts before. I got 2 coffees and a savoury muffin and sat down on the steps opposite Glenn and began what became a 2 hour conversation.
Glenn has been homeless most of his life. He was a happy young roofing tradesmen living in Bondi when in 1985 a car pulled in front of his motorbike resulting in him being in a coma for just on a year. Still bearing the scars where doctors cut off the top of his scull to relieve the pressure of his swollen brain Glenn laughs off my suggestions smoking is bad for his health. "So are motorbikes" he laughed pausing while reflecting his experience as he lite his cigarette. The accident left him paralysed down his left side. Sitting there on the bench I notice his arm and hand rolled up in his lap never moving. After getting out of hospital he made his way back to Western Australia living from town to town. He said his biggest problem living on the streets has been suffering endless robberies from young people who think an old homeless person is an easy target. His greatest joy is music but says in sorrow he losses each of his radio or CD players to thieves. "It's ok if they just take it and leave me alone but they want to beat me up sometimes. Some guy even pissed on me and thought it was funny." Glenn said with his eyes appearing to be searching for a reason why a human could ever be that low .
"One young guy robbed me once and punched me and I hit him with my walking stick across his face and he burst into tears. He was crying - I had blood pouring from my nose and I felt sorrow for the kid and I hugged him and told him he shouldn't do things like that - and off he went I hope he learnt something from that "
"You think there's an afterlife ?" He asks changing the subject. "No I think this is it" I reply.
" Yes I think that to and I'm happy with that I wouldn't like to live forever"
We sat there drinking our coffee seeing the town slowly waking up around us. Some Bunbury Council staff walked past us murmuring hello while others walked past in uncomfortable silence almost wishing they didn't have to see someone homeless.
"What's the most important thing you've learnt from life Glenn?" I asked, watching his eyes flick down as he paused in thought.
"The trees and plants breathe our breath and we breathe theirs- we would all be dead without plants and trees."
I sat silent... thinking...looking at this man of the streets wondering how life would be so different had it not been for that fateful day back in 1985 wondering if that driver has ever inquired what became of his victim.
As the sun was rising I noticed an elderly man standing in front of the Anzac memorial not far away. His had bowed standing still. And for a moment it seemed as if time had stopped for the 3 of us. The city around us silent.
I'm back in my car now reflecting on meeting Glenn. He hobbled off to the toilet near the court house- that's where he said he sleeps when in Bunbury. Tonight he's catching the bus to Esperance, an 8 hour bus ride. "Do you know anyone down there?" I asked.
"No it's just me wherever I go, just me." He laughs.
I've got one part of me now wanting to go find Glenn to see how I can help him rescue what life he has left. Then I pause thinking that maybe I need to save myself because perhaps Glenn has all he wants. I know I haven't archived that yet. I sit wondering what to do glancing back to see if he appears on the bench again.