There’s this guy, Chris, who’s a barista at the new coffee shop up the street from my house. He’s twenty-two years old, rounded shoulders, pale white skin, first trimester pudge, blonde hair in a top-knot, and a thick Australian accent.
He and I talk daily because, admittedly, I’m a creature of habit who enjoys working in the same place, drinking the same amount of coffee, eating the same yogurt/fruit/granola dish while I’m writing (like right now.) Plus, Chris always has great stories. Well, they’re entertaining, but a lot of times they’re actually pretty tragic so maybe great isn’t the appropriate word for them.
For instance, about a month ago, Chris was jumped on Gates Ave. I mean, they really mopped him bad, took his phone and whatever cash he had on him. Strange thing is, as Chris is telling me the story, he’s laughing hysterically and explains that he wasn’t really upset about it. That he knew what we he was getting himself into when he turned down that block. “A Gentleman of Gentrification.” An easy target, except…a broke one. He then tells me how instead of going home, he limped to a bar — his eye a blueberry — and pretty much got free drinks and loads of attention from concerned (and probably pretty attractive) women, so the night was ultimately a win as far as he was concerned.
Another time he lost his wallet, and when I asked where he thought he’d left it, his response was, “Probably on the roof.” Of course, I asked what he was doing on the roof, not that hanging out on the roof is abnormal in New York, but I figured he might’ve been at a party and maybe someone caught him slipping and snatched it.
He said, “I live up there.”
“What you mean?” I asked.
He smiled a jagged-toothed smile. “I mean, I’m homeless, Jason. Have been since you’ve known me. I live on the roof of the building I used to live in.”
All this, like it was nothing. As a matter of fact, I think he was pouring me a refill as he was talking.
My initial thought was, he must’ve just gotten to NYC from Australia. A newbie. There’s always that weird couch-hopping, pseudo-homeless thing that happens as you try to figure NY housing out. That makes sense. At least it did until Chris told me that he had been here four years.
“Yep, four years,” he said, grinning. “And I love it.”