"How you doing? Staying cool?"
"Yea..." he trails off, mumbling.
I've known Joe for about two months now. He is a homeless man who lives on the corner of 32nd and 5th. Musician, father, and - for the past two months - my friend.
I watch him in bewilderment.
"...the sun... shadows..."
His hand gestures suggest that he is describing the way the sun's motion against the static city buildings projects shadows throughout the day, throughout the weeks and seasons.
Yesterday was the summer solstice.
"It's hot," he acknowledges. More mumbling.
Every Tuesday morning, at the "butt-crack of dawn" (my term of endearment for the hour of six o'clock in the morning) I drag myself out of bed, out of Harlem, and make my way down to 330 5th Ave, where the Trinity Grace Church office is located. By 7:15 the facility is shaking by the power of at least a dozen voices gathered to worship.
Having recently joined the TGC worship team myself, I join in chorus.
"Do you play the drums?"
This was our first time meeting. I had seen him there before, sitting quietly in the early morning chill, ambivalent to the hustle and bustle of midtown Manhattan. I would walk past, as so many others do: avoiding. Til one day he reached out to me as I headed home from the meeting.
Having vaguely heard him over the din of the city and my iPod, I removed my head phones; thus our conversation - and, subsequently, our friendship - was initiated. He told me he was a musician and drummer himself, but he was betrayed when I handed him the djembe. We talked for some time about music until, fifteen or twenty minutes later, I bade him farewell and continued with my day.
I can tell he's still talking about the sun and shadows because he's making the same hand gestures as before. He pauses for a moment and I take advantage of the lull.
"Well, listen, I really have to be on my way... but it was great seeing you again!"
There are a few things I can always count on when I see Joe: that he'll be fully present, sober, engaged; that he'll talk a whole lot (his lips move, at least!); that I'll barely hear or make out any of his words; and that I'll undoubtedly see him next week.
"See you next week!"