The Lost Ones of Winter
Every day, as I walk to and from work in New York City, I see lost gloves. Some are on the pavement, recently dropped. Some are new and expensive, made of leather, with fur lining, or cashmere. Others are pathetic and wooly, ground into the snow and slush into a fibrous mush. Some are the orphaned mittens of children. A few are propped up on fence posts, as if amputated from a scarecrow, left there by a passerby. “Claim me! Claim me!” they seem to cry. As winter drags on, the lost gloves become more and numerous. Where are all their mates? I wonder.
On my walk to work I also observe a colony of homeless men who live under the FDR Drive overpass, or sleep in the in the doorways of businesses, or on grates. When the weather turns especially bitter cold, a school bus rounds them up and takes them to the homeless shelters. But a few of them avoid the shelters, preferring to remain outside.
One morning I saw the bloody bedding of one of these men in the doorway of a printing business near where I live. Something awful must have happened during the night. When I passed by again in the afternoon, I saw that the bedding was gone, and in its place was a bouquet of flowers and a cardboard sign, stuck on a yardstick. The sign said, “In memory of Dino, who died on January 23 at the age of 49. Cold and homeless, his spirit almost survived the frustrations of New York City.” As days went by, more and more flowers piled up. Someone left an artificial tropical plant. Dino meant something to people. Did he ever know?
How do people end up homeless? How do they lose their way? Once they were gurgling babies, clean and cute, at least for a while. What happened?
Getting back to the gloves — if grief could be quantified, what would be the sum total of everyone’s grief who has lost a glove? I believe it would add up to a great deal of collective anguish. I wonder if it would be equal to the anguish felt by Dino, and others like him, on the street.
Three years ago I lost a good leather glove on the train. I replaced it with an expensive pair of black leather ones with fur around the cuffs. The fur has since worn away in spots, but I still love the gloves. The other night I was in the back seat of a taxi with a friend. As I paid the driver and got out of the cab, my friend reached down and picked up the gloves. “You almost forgot these,” she said. A wave of gratitude and relief swept over me. I realized how sad I would have been to lose them.
The next day I pulled them on and rushed out the door. As I walked down the street I realized that something felt funny. It was the gloves. They were not mine! They were a bit too small, and none of the fur was worn away. When I got home that afternoon, I looked in the bottom of my other purse, and sure enough, my own gloves were there. I feel sorry for the person who lost these gloves. But if you are reading this right now, rest assured, they have a good home. I wish I could say the same for all the people out there, like Dino.