Kind of unsettling encounter yesterday. Should I even write about it?

At a 99 cent shop yesterday I heard someone call out my name. I turned back and saw a group of high school kids. No one I knew. I turned back. My name was heard again, then possibly for a third time before being followed by “Don’t you remember me?”

With that I turned again, The high school kids had cleared out and there he was, a dude I’d heard about for years but never encountered myself. A former friend from a bar that used to be my regular, a place which formed the cornerstone of my social life for years until most of the friends I made there moved away or stopped being friends.

This was Danny (not his real name) and he is, as I’d heard from numerous friends from that old bar scene, full bore homeless, with little more to his name than the coat on his back and the can of Budweiser he produced from in inner pocket.

He looked, as I’d heard, disheveled and insane, though not as motley as he is said to have looked a few years ago. His eyes glowed maniacally, reminding me that I really did like this guy for having an active mind and catholic interests.

Here he was, secure in his place, confident that homelessness suited him perfectly. He said this was obvious taillights blaring. I could hear he didn’t believe any of this and wanted to stop saying any of it. As much as he looked nothing like the Danny I used to know I still saw him for who he is, behind the theater.

Still, we spent a lot of time together back in the day, and nowhere in those memories do I recall any signal of mental illness. He was a bit twitchy, no doubt, and different. A yellow cab driver (hack) he once complimented me on my driving and steering-wheel-handling in particular when I drove him around Astoria in my late father’s Town Car.

We smoked pot at the cemetery. He always had the worst shit possible. It smelled and tasted like dirt. But it was fun, and peaceful in its way, to hear him talk of Blake and mortality while lurching about among the dead.

I don’t remember what happened to make him give up driving a cab but I have a foggy memory of playing some role in getting him a job as a file clerk somewhere in Midtown. I may have written a letter of recommendation or else supplied him with an email account or Internet access through my old AOL account.

He talked about the methodicalness and strictures of the job as liberating, not unlike the way I might speak of my current job. He described the individuations his fingers manipulating every single file, every document, positioning it perfectly in its rightful place as determined by forces higher than any we mortals could fathom.

All I know about his spiral into his present state is that it seemed to have been triggered by his mother. She threw him out of the house and moved back to India, where she died quite young, I think in her mid 50s.

Danny’s mother was drop dead beautiful, by the way. On more than one occasion I told Danny how badly I wanted to bone his mother. He was anything but  offended. He wanted to bone her, too.

I still don’t know how to calculate our encounter yesterday. He commented that he had seen me around Astoria a bunch of times but that I was always too far off to reach out to. He said he didn’t appreciate certain things he’d heard about what our circles of mutual friends had to say about his current state of affairs. I honestly did not know what to say about that.

In fact, I said damn close to nothing. If I had not taken an anxiety med earlier I think this might have led to a severe panic attack. I was genuinely straining myself to not feel naked, to not feel accused of something horrible when this person’s choices in life were his own to make. He boasted of homelessness, of living off the land when the land was, of course, us. Taxpayers. The system.

He made unsolicited apologies for his behavior toward a certain woman, saying he had a bit of a crush on her but never knew she was lesbian. I didn’t say it outloud but I thought Yes you did you fucking pig. You always knew she was lesbian.

He carried on like a charlatan, assuming I’d be happy to palm off a cool $20 when I had no intention whatsoever. He reached into his coat to show off his fancy pipe and boast of his ready access to pot and pharmaceuticals. I swear I thought he’d be reaching for a pistol, or a ghost gun, and I might die on that spot, at a 99-cent shop on Broadway in Astoria. I am ready to go when you want me, God, but please let it be a little more properly dignified than being gunned down in stoned blood by a pot-addled beerhead.

I told him I had to get going. All he got out of me was that I got a job, first one in 20 years, and that I loved it. He is the only homeless person I’ve known. I have made chitchat here or there panhandlers, and I talk to the homeless every day at my job. But that’s on the phone and I do not get to know them at all. Like others at my job who take calls from the homeless, I’ve lost whatever scintilla of sympathy I may have had. It sounds foursquare as hell but you have choices you can make in life. Choose wisely, and in your best interests.

I can’t keep typing, it’s too noisy here. More to say, maybe later. If there is a later.