“That IRT MAN”

"That IRT Man" (Tom, 2006)New York City
Tom used to beg on the IRT #1 train between 96th and and 191st streets. I first approached him and learned his name in 1999. Tom would get down on his knees, crawl, stop, grip his Day-Glo trinity jewelry and plead “I am not a bad man, please anyone help me how you can”. His sleeveless shirts revealed dark spots on his arms where his veins had been attacked for his trips to “paradise”.

He always seemed surprised when I called him by his name. One day I saw him clean, dressed up, and shaven and speaking regularly and I wondered if that was the day he had to meet his kids. In a few days he was back to his regular unkempt look. In 2008 he could be seen aroundNew York with his substance partner, a black man of about 50 years old. Together the duo could be seen collecting the days earnings then soon thereafter balancing on subway platforms and street corners while high. The last time I saw Tom was late 2009.

-GKE

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