by Eli Toast

My first poignant memory of the day almost made me puke. I was eating breakfast as I watched a homeless Southeast Asian man limping down the street. He was all matted hair, missing teeth, blackened skin from collected street filth, a humpback bulging beneath his rotten black jacket, scrawny, with an angular face, puckered in the way years of alcohol make some people’s faces look as though they’re slowly imploding; balls of white foam eddying in each corner of his mouth. An insult to death, really.

In his hand he held a lime green drink in a plastic cup. We were in Northern Thailand, where that kind of drink was served at all hours of the day. I noticed him, trying my best to size up the entirety of his destitution, which was nearly complete. Death, I suppose, being the whole shebang. I imagined the life trajectory that brought him to such a nadir; the complexity of his filth. If you let yourself go too far you’ll get to the subject’s undercarriage, the balls and ass and in between. This was not your average cookie-cutter bum. I couldn’t decide if my devoted study of him was a symptom of compassion or callousness (still can’t). Either way, doesn’t matter.

I was sitting there in a café , having just finished breakfast, drinking coffee and watching this guy lope down the street, when he takes a drink of the lime green jungle juice and a second later vomits. A heavy slap of nuclear-fusion-green refuse from the guts of an old vagrant. A hot burp: “blurg”—”fwap;” thin and green with soft chunks of bread or tofu. He seemed unfazed as he carried on, scuffing a soot laden foot through the acrid slurry. THAT’S what got me! Watching him drag his foot through it. He carried on, flexing his lips once or twice over his upper teeth in recognition. It was really gross, so I decided I’d write about it.