A man sat with jewellery in excess, not that any of the plentiful and colourful items matched. With ten around his neck ranging from fluoro yellow African designs teamed with various metallic, cloth and plastic necklaces and countless bracelets, this man was proud of what he wore, and it showed.
Although it was the costume jewellery that caught my attention, it wasn’t the thing that struck me the most. See, he was obviously homeless, but I say obviously only because my eye had been trained from years of experience with people in similar situations to note some of the signs of those who live on the streets.
From the untrained eye, I think it might not have been so obvious. He was an older man, well-groomed wearing a tailored suit holding a large white leather Giorgio Armani bag.
A worn peaked cap was the only thing that betrayed his poised facade, with his legs tucked closely together and back straight, holding his bag on his knees. He was rocking a pair of leopard print sunglasses in the best way possible, and from what I could tell, his face revealed that of an incredibly strenuous life.
Although he wasn’t overtly rude, you could tell he wasn’t impressed by the people around him. He just needed to get where he needed to get, and I got the feeling he would prefer not to be around strangers while doing so. I watched as he reluctantly shifted to allow a woman to sit next to him, in a way that I almost admired. He had conviction, and that was more than I could say for some other people in this world.
I smiled as I watched him take in the outside world with his hands clutching his bag like it held all his worldly possessions, because it probably did. Stop after stop, he sat remaining reserved in his extraordinary outfit that contradicted his hard exterior.
I wondered what circumstances brought him to this moment in time. Was it by choice? Were there people missing him? It must be a lonely life, I guess? I was proven wrong in the last sentiment when a few stops later, a shoeless man who was short and stout climbed onto the tram with some difficulty.
The second man’s beard was mighty, and sporting a cowboy hat and tattered checked shirt, he took his time gaining his bearings after he boarded. He placed his many shopping bags carrying anything but groceries on the floor and proceeded to tap is metro card against the validator.
I stood there stunned because I couldn’t believe his humble tenacity. Over the years, I had witnessed the wealthiest of people not paying, and here was this kind but gruff looking man, a man with no roof over his head, still paying his way on public transport.
It was the most animated I had seen the first man when the bearded man turned and took a seat across the aisle pulling out a notepad and beginning to write. The man wearing the suit practically jumped out of his seat with a smile that stretched across his face when he noticed the man he clearly knew on a tram full of strangers. Waving, he greeted the bearded man, and his excited sentiment was reciprocated by his friend.
These two men shared a comradery that seemed difficult for people not in their circumstance to completely comprehend. I mean sure, everyone has friends, but not on the level that these two probably had. When material possessions have no place in our lives, sociality becomes one of the most valuable factors.
Sometimes, I think we miss this true sense of connection. With new technology and social media, we are more distant while thinking we are closer because Jason just tweeted that he was at the footy, or because Sammy’s relationship status says she’s engaged. Why do I need to ask them questions when I already know what’s happening in their lives and could favourite the tweet or post a quick “Congrats!! Xx” on the status.
It has become disturbingly easy to unconsciously become disconnected, even high school reunions are obsolete. Obviously, Cyberia has allowed new types of relationships to form and has strengthened others, but I’m stuck on all the missed opportunities, all the missed conversations, and all the missed excited moments these two men showed me on the tram one Thursday afternoon.
By Naomi Eleanor