Sometimes I don’t recognize people when I’m riding by on my skateboard. Sometimes people don’t recognize me. When I’m not on the board, people I regularly see on the streets seem to recognize me even less.
I didn’t recognize 22-year-old homeless skateboarder, Dominique, without his skateboard when I ran into him last week. After what turned out to be a less than spectacular flyover view from the Circle, our paths crossed again while I was talking to one of his associates from the streets.
When we first met, he didn’t have any bearings in his skateboard wheels and was keeping them on with washers. A week or so later I gave him some bearings, but he lost his board to who he claims was a female officer with IMPD after he mouthed off to her. Since then, he says he’s lost a total of 4 boards to that same officer.
While I’d love to get him another board, I don’t want to see him lose it in a couple days. A complete standard board, that someone as talented as Dominique would enjoy using, costs no less than $110.00 according to an employee at Minus Skate Shop. When I asked Dominique whether he’d be able to avoid getting it taken away again, should he get a new board, he promised wholeheartedly that he would stay away from where the officer, who he claims has confiscated every board, usually patrols.
I had been wondering what had happened to Dominique. We originally met on my 46th Birthday. That same week, I kept spotting a praying mantis at the Pan Am Plaza. I had almost run over the little guy during our first encounter, but managed to swerve around him at the last second. After a week of photo shoots and videos with him, he disappeared the day after my birthday which also happened to be the same day an old friend I had roomed with twice in my twenties passed away from throat cancer.
Dominique never spoke of family and said he couldn’t remember a time when he didn’t live on the streets. He is charming and has the spark of someone who could accomplish great things with the proper support and guidance. But nearly two years after meeting him, he is living under a bridge on Washington Street just west of the Indian’s baseball diamond.
I wish I could do more for people, but at the end of the ride, I have to go home. I wish I could solve the problems of everyone and everything before returning to my so-called “normal” life with my family, but I don’t know how. For now, all I can do is lend an occasional helping hand, give a smile, and not treat people who live on the street like they are pariahs.