"I hate Minneapolis."
We were waiting to catch the light rail, this man and I. He was wearing a red and white baseball team shirt, and a matching cap and shorts. I don't follow baseball, so I didn't recognize the team affiliation. Or maybe there was no affiliation. He was angry; angry with an entire city and probably its suburbs and perhaps St. Paul and its suburbs as well. Maybe even the whole greater thirteen-county metropolitan area. Possibly his anger was limitless. I just did not want to be a part of it in any capacity. It was a hot August evening and I did not have the energy to deal with anything more than getting from work to home. I did not want to be engaged.
"I hate Minneapolis. I hate the airport. I hate the malls. I hate the stores. I hate the big government building downtown. I hate the concrete."
He hated the concrete. This man had serious issues, even with the very surface upon which he walked.
"Got a big new government building downtown, but they can't gimme my money. Big new building. I served as a soldier for seventeen years, and they still won't gimme my money."
I stared straight ahead. He sat two seats away from me. I wasn't afraid, but I did not want to get pulled into the field of his paranoid vision, either. He wasn't asking for handouts. He wasn't drunk. Some inner energy drove his monologue, and it had nothing to do with me, or with anything else in his immediate vicinity. Who knows when his senses had been overtaken by obsession, or why.
"Seventeen years as a soldier. Overseas in Desert Storm. And they won't give a soldier no money. Goddamn new government building downtown. Seventeen years. I hate the light rail train, too. Thing won't let me on if I don't run fast enough. Just like the government. I been running after them for seventeen years."
He had a point there. I had been left behind by conductors when my hand was a mere second from touching the door. But I didn't hate them. They were only concerned with making the trains run on time.
No, those conductors were sadistic bastards.
The cadence of his speech changed, the patterns becoming more rote, the timbre of his voice decreasing in richness, edging towards monotony.
"Seventeen years. Not anyone else on this platform can say they gave seventeen years as a soldier for their country and didn't get no money for it."
He was right. I was the only other person on the platform. I had not served seventeen years as a soldier. I had not served as a soldier at all.
He did not look at all like the other homeless people I had encountered. He was clean, as were his clothes. His face was freshly shaven and his hair neatly trimmed. I stole a glance at his hands. Blameless fingernails. Perhaps he was not homeless after all. Maybe he had a place to go to when he got off at one of the light rail stops.
But where? And what then?
"And I been trying to get them to gimme my money."
His soliloquy was winding down now. It needed a fresh audience. The train came, on time as always, and I got on. Other people got off. He stayed on the platform.
"I hate Minneapolis."