bus stop bin

It’s Saturday morning, about half past 10, and I’m walking past the bus stop that’s situated a few meters from the corner of Ventura Boulevard, when I say hello to a man to whom I had said hello just the day before.
The man, who is in a semi-lounging position on the black metal bus stop bench, has his gray hair long and slicked back, gray stubble on his face, is wearing a Hawaiian-style shirt, khaki shorts and has a shopping trolley off to his side that contains a small black wheeled suitcase, a large, full black bin liner and the skeleton of a lengthy wooden-handled umbrella.
‘Hello,’ I say, smiling to him as I pass.
‘Oh,’ he says, and holds up his finger as if he would like me to stop.
So I do.
‘We spoke yesterday, right?’ he says, and when I tell him yes, we did, he tells me that though I probably didn’t mean to, I caused him a problem in his thoughts.
So despite what I have done not being made clear to me, having caused unintended mischief, I apologise.
‘Oh,’ I say, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to,’
He shakes his head slowly, holds up his left index finger, waves it side to side, and tells me not to worry.
‘You weren’t aware of what you were doing, I’m sure it wasn’t intentional,’
Then he tells me there are cameras attached to the FedEx building across the street.
‘You know there are cameras attached all over the FedEx building, and that way they know everything that’s going on,’
Then he tells me it has something to do with what we are thinking.
I don’t know what to say to this, apart from – ‘Oh, is that right?’
Then, just as a very noisy bus pulls up, he begins to tell me a long story about how his people had bought him a convenience store.
‘I’m Jewish, and my people bought me a convenience store but there were too many people outside, all around the…,’
But I don’t hear the rest of the story because the bus engine is too loud and hundreds of cars are passing, beeping their horns and running red lights.
So I stand there watching the man’s mouth, nodding my head, trying yet failing to hear fully what he is saying.
But I am reluctant to interrupt him to tell him I cannot hear him, so I continue to nod my head as he talks on, until a small man, a man so small as to seem miniature, wheels past us in a wheelchair and I watch as he stops at a rubbish bin, puts his arm in, pulls out bottles and food containers, shakes them, opens them, and then drops them back in the bin.
I watch the man in the wheelchair wheel away down the street, and then I turn my attention back to the homeless man who, now that the bus is gone, I can hear is talking again about the cameras on the FedEx building.
About how they are looking into everything we are doing.
About how they are listening to everything we are saying.
Then a man with a long silver metal stick passes us, and I watch as he too stops at the rubbish bin, leans over and looks in, pokes around, takes out a plastic bottle, puts the bottle in a big black plastic bag he has draped over his left his shoulder, and walks off.
Then I turn back to the man whose words I have disturbed and he tells me this-
‘My name is Richard and I want to thank you for listening to me.’
And as I tell him my name, and that it was my pleasure to listen to him, he turns his head fully away from me.
So even if he has already dismissed me, under a splendid Los Angeles sun, I say goodbye to Richard, and walk off up Laurel Canyon Boulevard.

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