Paul

Living in the Upper East Side neighborhood of Manhattan my entire life, I have become familiar with an environment where very little street activity takes place. As of about 5 years ago, this all changed when I first encountered a man that goes by the name Paul. Standing at about six feet tall, his untamed wiry silver hair juts out in all directions as if electrocuted. He is often found with facial hair to accompany the rest of his unkempt appearance. The first time I saw him, he layered a button down shirt atop a boxy t-shirt along with some weathered khakis and distressed boat shoes. Paul is homeless. For weeks at any given period of time, Paul sleeps across the street from our house under the awning of Corrado Bread and Pastry, a somewhat protected spot on a quiet street in Manhattan. Unlike other homeless people I have noticed on the streets, Paul does not have many belongings, mainly just a small inconspicuous tote bag and a cardboard mat for sleeping. Attributing to Paul’s enigmatic nature, he suffers from mental illness, although seeming to be affected in waves. I have not had the opportunity to chat with him in depth, but both of my parents have claimed to have had at least half hour conversations with him while he is in a state of lucidity. Compiling the stories my parents have told me about Paul, I have gathered that he grew up on the Upper East Side and has one sibling who also lives here. Paul, a highly educated man, presumably attended Dartmouth as well as worked as a journalist for an extended period of time. Unclear as to what caused him to end up in the current state he is in, Paul has had a rocky history with many of the residents in my neighborhood. My mom told me that she overheard a woman being patronizing towards Paul in an encounter on the sidewalk and later discovered that he had pooped on her doorstep. The police eventually got involved after Paul had done this revengeful act several times to different residents. Usually as I am dozing off to sleep at night, I am accompanied by the cries of Paul yelling gibberish or profanities for the entire neighborhood to hear. A year and a half ago however, I vividly remember the cries elevating to a point of a manic episode. Paul had been sitting on the stairs leading up to our house and was acting out more than usual. My family was not scared because of our established connection with him; a neighbor must have called the police because within about 10 minutes of his episode, the police had handcuffed him on our staircase and drove him to the station a few blocks down. Although this has not been the most recent episode of his, it is one I remember most vividly simply because it took place on our outdoor steps. I can imagine one of the toughest parts about Paul’s life is the daily dehumanization he faces. There is no doubt people look at his rough appearance and assume that he is uneducated and has no hope for recovery. Again, I am unclear as to why Paul is in the situation at hand, however, I can assure you that I have never met anyone else like him in my life. He has never asked any members of my family for money, rather only for food or a newspaper. His love for learning is evident as I once saw him fish a copy of the daily newspaper out of a trashcan moments after a businessman tossed it away. Pauls intellect is accompanied by his extremely sharp memory. Months went by without chatting with Paul and then one day after walking home from school I heard “Eliot how is your mom doing?”. I was stunned and turned around to find Paul sitting on the street corner adjacent to my house. Although Paul’s outbursts do become disruptive at times during the early house of the morning, he has embedded himself into the dna of my neighborhood and has shaped the place I call home. 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *