|Author - Larry J Pitman|
I first noticed Carlos one evening while I was out walking around Barranco, the district of Lima where I live. I saw him working outside the Mocha Graña Theatre a few blocks from my house. He was helping people park their cars in order to receive a tip. It is common in Lima to have men on the street earn money helping people park their cars. They guide you in and out of the parking space, and they hold up the traffic for you during the process. Usually they are wearing very casual clothing. These are street guys, and they look it. Carlos was different.What originally caught my attention was how Carlos was dressed. He had on a jaunty cap, khaki pants, a tweed sport coat, and, believe it or not, wore an ascot. On closer inspection it was all a bit shabby and definitely well used. Yet he looked far more distinguished than any other street person I had seen in Lima. That is just what intrigued me. I asked myself, “How does a guy who looks like that wind up parking cars for food money? He definitely looked out of place.
Carlos is probably in his fifties, tall and thin, with tousled gray hair and a well trimmed beard. I could see him as a waiter in a fancy restaurant or the doorman at an upscale apartment. He could pull it off with that elegant look. Despite his appearance, I suspected that Carlos had some reason for being where he was, on the streets hustling. I was intrigued, and I wanted an answer to that mystery.After that first encounter, I began to see him frequently. He was always on the street, and I would pass by, stop, and talk a little bit. We usually just exchanged pleasantries. Of course I was curious about his circumstances and tried to work in some questions regarding his past like where was his family and why he was working on the streets.
I believe that Carlos is a very proud person. Because of that quality, he never agrees to answer my questions. At any rate, I have not succeeded in getting his life story.
In my imagination all he really needs is for someone to pick him off the street, dust him off and he will start back on the straight and narrow. If only he gets that one break, it will change his life. I could be that one. I could save him by giving him money and good advice.Wait a minute!
I’m doing it again!Maybe I don’t want to get his story. Maybe I would prefer to fabricate some fairly tale about a guy who has fallen on hard times, but comes from a distinguished family. For some weird reason, I always need to create these romantic stories. It has happened so often in the past. My mind flashed to all my past bitter disappointments: the sadness at such waste, and the anger at their failure to do what I wanted them to do
I gave them help: money, food, a place to live. What did they do with it? Did they ever show any gratitude?Have I been a fool once again? Perhaps I have been mislead by the clothes that I saw him wear when I first met him. It made me think that he is something that he really isn’t. Do the clothes really make the man? Or is Carlos really just another drunken bum, living on the streets because he can’t make it anywhere else? A dirty, filthy bum.
He is a loser, loser, loser.Why should I help him?