It is Sunday, a warm and humid day. Mr. Betterhalf and I take a Sunday stroll. We walk through the city and enjoy the relaxed feeling – people are having ice-cream and coffee outside. Some leftover football fans are still celebrating, oblivious to the fact that not only the big final was the day before, but also that our city’s team lost the game. You have to celebrate while you can, don’t you?
We walk to the old cemetery on the other side of the city. We admire the beautiful crypts and the old tombstones. People are walking their dogs, sitting on benches, some are jogging. Everything is peaceful, and life is great.
On the way back, we stop for ice-cream. I am really enjoying the coconut flavour, it tastes like summer. We continue to walk, and then I see him: he is tall. Long, greasy grey hair. Weather-beaten skin. Worn out, distant, probably homeless. He is rooting through the trash cans along the pedestrian area. Not an unusual sight, unfortunately. I am used to people rooting for deposit bottles to collect some money later. But that’s not what he is doing. He is picking out MacDonald cups. He sucks the last leftover sips out of cups and bottles that people have thrown away. He is thirsty. He grabs the ice cream bowls and licks the last bits out of them. He is hungry. He does not make eye-contact, he does not beg.
I have never seen anybody doing this, here in Germany. I know that some people fall through the welfare net, be it intentionally or because of tough luck. I know there is poverty even here, but this is new to me. I do not feel repulsed, I do not even feel sorry. I feel sick to my stomach. This is not ok, this cannot be.
Mr. Betterhalf and I have a quick talk. He pulls out some money. We follow the trashcan man until we can approach him. Mr. Betterhalf says: “Excuse me, Sir?!” The trashcan man looks at us, and looks away again. He is scared! He is probably used to aggression. He is fucking scared of us! Mr. Betterhalf hands him the money and says: “Buy yourself some food.”
The trashcan man mumbles two or three thank-yous and takes off.
Mr. Betterhalf and I walk home, to our lovely apartment. We make dinner, have a shower, and enjoy our Sunday night. I hope I left some ice cream in my cup when I threw it away.