The Van Man was not interested to know the homeless man who lived at the park. Van Man watched him sit on the park bench every single day. He looked dirty to Van Man. He also seemed very crude. Once, Mr. Bench whipped it out and pissed on one of the trees. In broad daylight. Van Man lived in a van. He had enough insecurities as it was. He did not need Mr. Bench as a reminder of how close he was to being on the streets and filthy. He made a choice to never look in Mr. Bench's direction. No matter how long they both shared the park. Mr. Bench seemed like a nice guy to Van Man, though. He acted friendly to the joggers and would count reps for people that worked out nearby. Van Man knew those people did not really want to interact with Mr. Bench, but they feigned niceness. Van Man would have none of that. He was well aware that a kind gesture to the right person could go a long way. And to the wrong person it could be dangerous. He did not want Mr. Bench to feel that it was okay to start up conversation with him or ask for money or food from The Van Man.
One day, Van Man arrived at the park to exercise and enjoy his lunch of meat and raw vegetables. As always, Mr. Bench was seated on his bench. As Van Man got out of his van, Mr. Bench said something unintelligible to him. Mr. Bench pointed with his cane towards the pull-up bars. Van Man had his guard up and ignored Mr. Bench. Fuck him, thought Van Man. He walked to the pull-up bars and noticed a white shirt on the ground. It was Van Man's white shirt from the day before. He had left it accidentally. And he realized what Mr. Bench had said to him. Mr. Bench had made sure nobody touched Van Man's shirt. He protected it for him.
The locomotive of shame rushed over Van Man. He's a nice enough guy, thought Van Man. After the work-out, Van Man smiled and nodded at Mr. Bench. He reciprocated the gesture and appeared happy. Van Man was sure it would be different now. He would offer a smile to Mr. Bench whenever he saw him. He was now of the mind that a smile went a long way. That is, until the next day. Van Man arrived at the park and walked to the pull-up bars. He did not smile at Mr. Bench. He ignored him. Van Man did not want to get too friendly. But he still thought Mr. Bench was a nice enough guy.
Then one day, Mr. Bench wasn't there. Van Man knew his absence was strange. And unsettling. Mr. Bench never showed up again. Van Man would not allow himself to think about what might have happened to Mr. Bench. That would have done no good. Mr. Bench was gone and The Van Man felt alone.