I Hope He Didn’t Die Last Night

It’s noon on Saturday in Portland, and there’s about 8 inches of snow on the ground. In the next two days, I expect consistent, sub-freezing temperatures.

I can’t help but feel intense sorrow for my neighbors down the street. They can’t afford heating, or jackets, or snowshoes. From what I’ve learned, they and their kin have lived in different spots around Portland for the last 50 years or so. 

The city doesn’t like too many of them in the same place, or for too long. Something about making the city look cleaner, or safer? I don’t think anyone is really sure. No one wants to talk about it. Sometimes, my neighbors even find themselves in a good situation, and are still forced to move and lose their few possessions.

The community has a lot of initiatives, fundraisers, and mutual aid programs to support my neighbors down the street, I guess. Help them financially, keep them warm, you know? But I haven’t quite gotten the chance to be a part of anything. I’ve only really been around for a month.

I mean, there’s still a crazy virus floating around, too. At least, that’s what everyone is obsessing over. It’s not like I’d be welcomed up my neighbor’s patio with some warm, waterproof shoes, or insulated pants, or a parka. Well, maybe they’d appreciate the gesture. Maybe they’d appreciate some non-threatening human contact.

Now that I think of it, I can’t even afford new warm clothes for myself right now. I’ve been out of a job since September, and am doing the best I can to make ends meet and set myself up for success. I’m probably not even the right person to help my neighbors. I wasn’t responsible for their situation. Was I?

Shouldn’t I still be able to extend a helping hand though? After all, I definitely have the space in my house to keep some of my neighbors warm. A warm place to sleep is certainly not asking too much. Our heater has been running non-stop for a week.

If I’m being honest, I don’t know how any of my neighbors down the street are doing. I haven’t talked to any of them for a week. I haven’t even gotten a chance to wave at my neighbor who usually hangs out on the corner. I always love how he jumps when I offer him an apple.

I hope he didn’t die last night.

Nathan Bouquet

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