I see plenty of unhappiness and misery in downtown Syracuse, but today’s encounter was heartbreaking.
With my $7 lunch in hand, I strolled toward Columbus Circle, the city’s busiest pedestrian cut-through.
I walked by the statue of Christopher Columbus, where a young man was hunched over on a bench, reading something on his phone. And just bawling. He had a backpack and wore baggy clothes.
I kept walking.
But it didn’t feel right. When I got across the street, I stopped and kept an eye on him, wondering what he would do next. And what I should do.
He got up and started walking in the other direction, so I followed. He entered the nearby food pantry/outreach center. I sat on a bench, started in on my lunch and waited for him to come out.
Within two minutes he emerged and started walking, slowly, in my direction. I called to him and he came over.
“You OK?” I asked. “You seemed upset back there.”
His face and shoulders relaxed. “Thanks for noticing,” he said.
I asked what was going on and motioned for him to sit down next to me. He shook his head no, and said, “I don’t know if I want to tell you.”
He said he’s staying at a shelter, but the outreach center was trying to help him find an apartment.
He told me his name, that he was born in Syracuse and raised in Florida. It’s good you’re not there now, I told him, with Hurricane Matthew bearing down and forcing evacuations. He’d heard about the hurricane, and agreed.
I want to know the rest of his story, what he was reading on his phone that was tearing him up. But that’s for another time.
“I hope your day gets better,” I said.
A hint of a smile showed in his eyes.
He didn’t ask for anything, and he gave me so much.