A Camper

A while back, an elderly man began tent camping near my domicile. I observed him for a few days and took the opportunity to meet him.

He had arrived in strange fashion: another elderly man, driving a beat-up muscle car from the 60s, had driven him to the camp site, but abandoned him sometime in the middle of the night, and now he was alone and without transportation.

For the next few days, he “camped” and drank malt liquor from cans, smoked from a pot pipe, listened to a tiny transistor radio, and kept a fire going, which he regular doused with lighter fluid.

It was all very odd. He had virtually no gear and I never saw him eating.

One morning before work, I had some extra coffee and went up to him and offered a cup. He gladly accepted and I brought it over. He was one the gauntest men I’d ever seen and his shirtless body was covered in tattoos.

I asked what happened to his traveling buddy. He told me he got “into a funk” after hitting the vodka and drove away. The man didn’t own a phone so there was no way to reach his “friend.” I didn’t know what to say. The man thanked me for the coffee, called me “bro,” and offered me a hit off the pipe. I declined and wished him well.

A day later, I came home from work and the man was gone. A neighbor said he’d thrown away the tent in a dumpster and walked away.

Who was he? Where was he going? How would he survive? Who are these people? I want to learn their stories. I want to help.