I first noticed him last year. Perhaps as spring rolled into summer. Though the date is not particularly important, it is not like it is a “just yesterday” kind of event.. I thought him to be a striking figure. A bit gaunt. But handsome from a distance. He appeared to have been in the battles of life, so in my mind I called him Thor, the war god, until I such time I would find the courage and compassion to know him and his name.
I wasn’t sure if Thor was homeless, or lived in a house around the block. Perhaps in the subsidized housing just to the East of my place. Wardrobe clean, then not so, then appearing clean again. For all I knew he could have made his home in the park just to the West of Southwest Boulevard. It is an area salted with industrial zones, and neighborhoods. Just South and West of the city center, and West of the River. You can see the expensive houses of former oil barons on the other side, as they lined Riverside Drive. My side of the river was for the refineries and the workers.
Days could pass with no sign of Thor, and then I would see him travel up my block as one journeys with conviction. Rarely would he raise his head to acknowledge that he was being observed.
In my neighborhood it is not unusual to see a small band of men and women I thought to be “between situations.” They occasionally would appear to hang out together, but on most occasions, loners it seemed. A culture I drive by, observe, ponder, and exclaim to myself, “there but by the grace of God, ….” I have tossed a token dollar, or a smile and wave in the direction of many. But no conversation.
Summer, though hot, is a fairly easy time to survive on the streets of Tulsa. The exit ramps and four way signal light intersections are crowded with panhandlers and their hand printed, terse statement stories written on cardboard. Some appear to be well prepared for the task at hand. I have even heard that some make quite a living if the weather is right and the stop light cycle is good.
Thor was not one of those. I never saw him in any action of this sort. Maybe he had a family and a job. Maybe his travels were travels of purpose. But his wardrobe was oddly familiar every time I saw him. I must say I was so curious, and perhaps a bit suspicious. What might happen to my house, or the houses of my neighbors, if empty for an extended period of time. Was Thor observing my property? I have dogs, but they really are neither watchful nor protective.
There are empty, abandoned, houses on my block. Are those targets of squatters. Has Thor or “the others” set up an encampment in these framed and windowed skeletons?
I made a decision. I would “befriend” Thor. Start slowly. Wave. Smile. Act pleased to see him as he traveled by my house. I was going to start the friendship process. At least that was the intent from my side of the property line.
So I would “wait and watch.” I would not exactly call it stalking, because I did not follow anyone. Targeting. Yeah, that is what I did. I targeted this passerby, whose life perhaps needed no intrusion. But this is my street. And I want to know you. As I have introduced myself to my neighbors, and inquired, and none of them know anymore about you than I do. But all have noticed you.
There were days I would not see you. Perhaps you had multiple routes. But I remember it was sometime late last Spring that I gave you the wave. I believe you had looked away just as my hand elevated. The “wave whiff.” Embarrassing. But I was not going to call out, I was just going to wait for the next opportunity.
And that opportunity did come. And it came again and again. And it blossomed as best it could. It lead to some meals, but very little conversation or real contact. You are quite a joy to know. And I remember when the walls finally gave way to a friendship of sorts. I posted on Facebook on September 29, 2013.
Feral cats do not make friends easily. And though I do not know your history, or at least you won’t talk to me about it. Thor, your face shows the battle scars. I still see you square off with the large black male, Midnight, and it is my hope that neither of you fight to the death. And it is my hope that you will be hanging out at Casa Canine whenever you like. There is food on the table, and conversation and comfort if you need. Be careful on the streets.
Oh, and when I cage you, transport you, and have you neutered, please don’t take it personally. Welcome to my home.