You don’t meet much street begging in Ciudad Vieja. At home, in many parts of my town, we have panhandlers standing at traffic light medians at major intersections, by freeway exits, in front of restaurants and malls.They hold small hand scrawled messages on cardboard signs and push their possessions around in a shopping cart. You see caravans of carts pushed together at night as they make little campfires on cold winter nights.
Turning a corner off Colon street, near Roberto’s antique store and studio, I happen upon a sleeping man in an alcove. He is out of the way of pedestrian traffic, looks comfortable, isn’t causing trouble. There are no wine bottles. There is no cart packed with clothes and bags of groceries to show he has been on the street a long time. His clothes aren’t pressed but they aren’t dirty.
His chest moves as he breathes.
There are similarities between sleep and dying. One you wake from, the other you don’t. One is temporary and the other is permanent.
I debate taking his photo. If an awake person doesn’t want their photo taken they can shake their finger or say no. He has no say in his present condition.
If you snooze, you lose.
Being able to sleep on the street in board daylight, in the middle of a big city, shows a level of trust I don’t have.