His name is Will.
I remember because that’s my name. And because it’s the only thing we have in common.
I met Will the other day in Treme. He was slumped against an abandoned house on Ursulines. I’m not sure who was in worse shape: the house or him. But I am sure who smelled worse. That would be Will. I could barely get within 5 feet of him. Funny how we use smell to repel us. To turn an “us” into a “them.”
“You look like hell,” I told Will.
“I am in hell,” he said. Will told me that he’d been living in his car for two weeks. He’d had a job at an auto body shop on Broad Street. But the owner shut it down one night, taking his employees’ paychecks with him.
“There used to be jobs for people like me,” Will said, making an observation that could be as much about this country as our city. “But those big jobs over at the medical complex going up on Tulane Avenue? I can’t get one of those jobs. So, I’m in my car til I figure something out.”
“Come on, let’s go for a walk,” I said.
Wil stood up and pulled up his 12-sizes-too-big jeans. The ones he held up with a blue wire hanger he had undone and fashioned into a belt. We walked down Ursulines, across Marais and back up St. Philip. Talking about New Orleans. What was, what is.
“I’ve tried to leave this place probably three or four times,” Will said. “She won’t let me.”
After about 10 minutes we were in front of my house.
“When’s the last time you showered?” I asked Will.
“I haven’t showered today,” he answered, with a prideful emphasis on “today.”
“Come on in,” I said. “Let’s get you showered.”
Will came in. Took his shoes off at the front door and headed to the back, where I heard him turn on the shower.
I went to my closet to get some old, raggedy clothes to give him. But as I stood at the closet door, all I could do was think of Pope Francis and his words about helping those less fortunate than us.
“This man doesn’t deserve rags,” I told myself ,taking out a nice shirt, a pair of jeans, a good belt. And a pair of socks. Funny ‘dat. I’d never imagined myself making fashion decisions based on the words of a pope. And if I were going to do so, I’d have thought it would be Benedict, what with his predilection for all things Prada.
I folded the clothes and left them outside the bathroom door. A few minutes later, Will came back up the hall. He sat down to put on his socks and glanced over at the Tarot card spread I keep out on my credenza.
“You do Tarot card readings?” Will asked.
“Yup. Sure do.”
“I need some angels watching over me right about now,” he said, walking to the door.
“But I guess they’re always there; we just need to see them,” I remember him saying.
I remember because his name is Will. Just like mine. And we have everything in common.