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Living with Schizoaffective Disorder

I Bought Jesus A Smokie Last Night

I think John is mentally ill. I think John is deeply depressed.

Michael David Crawford, Baritone,

February 23, 2006

Copyright © 2007 Michael David Crawford. All Rights Reserved.

I ran into him again as he held the door open for me to walk into a cafe downtown. He is very tall and very thin, and there is no mistaking the sound of desperation in his voice: "Could you buy me something to eat?"

"Sure," I said, "I'll buy you a smokie." I turned and walked back out of the cafe to where a street vendor named Dan had his cart. I met Dan my first night here. I'm not quite sure how to spell his name right; it's pronounced "Dee Ann". I think he is Korean. Dan's a good guy.

"Get whatever you want," I said.

"I'll have an all beef smokie please."

I gave Dan a five and said "Keep the change."

"We've met before," I said, "I bought you pizza over on Broadway." He didn't remember though.

"What's your name," I asked, curious as to what he'd say this time.

"John," he said.

"Pleased to me you, John," I said as I shook his hand.

I often shake the hands of the homeless. Even more than they need food, even more than they need money, they need to be treated with respect, acknowledged as one of us, as legitimate members of the human race.

Something is not quite right about John. While Vancouver is home to many addicts and alcoholics, I don't think that's it. He has a wide-eyed, far-away stare, that I've seen before in photographs of shell-shocked veterans. When he speaks, his voice is always strained and desperate. There is an innocent, bewildered, childlike quality about him.

I think John is mentally ill. I think John is deeply depressed.

I don't always buy food for panhandlers when I'm asked. Sometimes I just can't deal with talking to them. Lately I've been very worried about money - while my company pays me well, I've been putting down so much money on my debts that I don't have much to spare. I'm ashamed to admit that sometimes, when asked for spare change, or even when asked for food, I just say "Sorry, I can't help you," and hurry on past.

As we waited for Dan to cook his sausage, John asked "Do you think you could help me out with a couple bucks?" and I said "No, I'm sorry, I can't. I'm happy to buy you food, but I can't give you money."

"Would you like something to drink?" I meant soda or a coffee, but the way he suddenly shook his head, I think he thought I meant liquor.

I had just bought a smokie for myself before I ran into John. "Excuse me," I said, and took a bite of it.

"Here you go," said Dan, and gave John his food.

"I gotta go now," I said, and offered my hand again. As we shook, I said "My name is Mike."

"I'll see you around, John." And then I left him, and went into the cafe.

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