I noticed him staggering on the sidewalk in the summer heat. His sneakers were untied and he wore no shirt. I could easily count each of his ribs through his thin skin. He is tall, so tall that he towered over most people he passed. I followed him to the safe place he had made with his blankets in the portico of a vacant building. He smiled when I asked his name. David, he said. I gave him a bottle of water and sat down with him. He smelled of sweat, beer, and urine. We talked a while as I took several pictures. After a few minutes, tears appeared in his eyes as he said, “I appreciate that you see me…who I am, not how I look now. Thanks, man.”
His mouth opened as if he were going to say something else, but he didn’t. He just gazed right into my eyes as if he were searching for something, perhaps an answer, I don’t know. He wept and I put my hand on his shoulder.
Of course, David, but no need to thank me for that. Where do you go from here?
He stared right through me and said nothing. There was no hope in his eyes and I felt a deep sense of hollowness.
Editor’s Note: Enjoy more extraordinary images and stories in Renato’s Book of Street Portraits, conversations and more.