I first saw him on a cold foggy morning, early summer, in Albany, New York. I was standing on the edge of my porch, off 33 Lark, watching the morning traffic, downing a can of warm, sugar-free Red Bull, sucking on a 100 menthol, Seneca. I had just gotten up, I was still in my bathrobe, my hair was all over and crazy; I’d looked just like a mad man, I’m sure, with my three day steel wool, and my bunny slippers, crammed over mismatching feet. It was at a certain point in my life, wherein I just knew I did not give a fuck, and it showed, nearly every morning since late spring.
When he passed me, that morning, it occurred to me — no, dawned on me — struck me — struck me like a baseball bat to the dome — that I was not in fact the most fucked up man on the block. This was a bittersweet realization. Because when you truly don’t give a fuck, it’s an amazing realization; you realize, that all the other times wherein you did not give a fuck, it was merely just practice. When you truly don’t give a fuck, women will roll their eyes at you, children will turn up their noses at the site of you, bums will ask you if you’re homeless, too; when these three things all happen to you and, regularly at that, you know it then that you’ve reached the point, so long of course as you still don’t give a fuck. See, I set a pretty high bar, with not giving a fuck. People tell me they don’t give a fuck, and I show them that they do give a fuck. That, is what I do. It’s a marvelous life, this life I’d lead. But then I saw oscar. That man, he had me beat.
His shopping cart consisted of only three wheels. I’d heard him coming, before I could see him; the post beam, of the missing wheel, was scraping, gouging the pavement as he pushed his cart up Lark Street. When he turned the corner, past the big Oak on 30th — just after the bends — that’s when I saw the heads. Manikins. The heads of which he’d impaled, and had kept at the front of his cart. It was like, a voodoo, death cart — to say it simply. That’s what this was. He had stuffed, all these stuffed-animals all over the damn thing — all of them impaled, in some violent fashion or another. It was an alarming sight to see. But Oscar himself, however, was just like any other homeless man you might see walking down Lark. There wasn’t really anything too, too unusual about the man, except of course for his death cart.
After that one morning in early summer, I’d start seeing Oscar regularly, as he’d push on by, with that death cart of his, at least once every other day. After, maybe a week or so, I started talking to him. I was surprised, that this much time had been needed to pass, before we’d talk; most of the homeless, I encounter on Lark, are not too shy to ask you for change, or a smoke. I get asked for one or the other or both on a daily basis. But Oscar, though, never asked me for anything. And if he wasn’t asking me for things, I doubt he’d be asking anyone else for things. I’m always on my porch. I’m always smoking. Besides, everyone was scared of the guy.
First time we talked, it was early morning; that’s always when he’d push by. I offered him a smoke. He looked at me, mumbled something, but i didn’t hear him. I guessed he wasn’t a smoker. He wouldn’t say. He stays down near New Scotland, he told me. Over by the rails, he said.
He wasn’t much of a talker, really, and I only saw him during that one summer. I moved out to Syracuse before the fall. Got a new job. I guess I’d started giving a fuck, one could say. But Oscar, though, and, to be honest I don’t think that Oscar was his name — Oscar is just the name I nicked him with — but I think though that Oscar did give a fuck. I think he did. But I think it had meant something different to him than it had meant to me, to give a fuck or to not.