Today I met B. B. is for Bálint. We’re not strangers anymore in the chilly afternoon-night.

I just want to catch a metro but instead I end up talking to and joking with the nicest human. This is a story about B., who would  deserve so much more from life. But it’s cold outside, in between wind and glass walls and evening city void. “I want to go somewhere warm. Italy.” We’re not strangers anymore.

B. studied English Communication and International Relations in Budapest, speaks 4 languages – we speak top English together, is smart, courageous, has a dream , a guitar;) and is always looking for solutions. But there’s a  “problem”, he’s Roma. As he jokes himself, he’s also homeless, obviously dark skinned, diabetic with insuline issues, fat and…he snores -VERY loud; he would so love to get rid of just one of these things.

B. was at the border between Ukraine and Hungary to translate for Roma refugees fleeing the war. He’s been living between Budapest and Vienna, in shelters and on the streets. He left Budapest cause he didn’t feel safe there, now he’s leaving Vienna too. He just came from the main train station, he shivers when he tells me the story. Of how he almost ran into the man who not long ago called him  “faggot” & “gipsy”  and attacked him with pepper spray when B. went up to him to show that he wasn’t afraid of him and his insults. You need to speak up, he says. The man: a homeless man who tried to stab a person, permanently drunk, aggressive and racist, with mental health issues. In the end, we come to the conclusion that social workers are probably too afraid of him (or they’re professionally unprepared or don’t care) to ban him from the shelter forever.

“I’m too normal”, he says. “So the other one comes first. But how do they think I’ll make if on my own? Why do they need to wait before something bad happens, do they want to see blood or what, before they act?” B. had to leave. Before all of this happened, B. had his own room in this shelter in the Viennese pampa, he was building  terrariums with beautiful plants for a company. He gesticulates to show me the company in an office building across the square and I squint into the semidarkness, intrigued. “It was such a beautiful room.” But he can’t go back there. Italy then Spain, a lot of maybes. At the train station, a Ukrainian child had the saddest eyes he’d ever seen.  It brings back my own memories and it hurts, it hurts, the train station is meters away. So we talk about Ukraine. He cares. When you meet a person who cares, you just feel it.

B. tells me of his dream, a bike camper. Independence. Protection from rain, snow, cold. Simple things. He tells about tents. Tents are good, sometimes they’re set fire to ((crazy world)). And in the USA they started giving tiny houses to homeless people. One of the last nights he slept outside, he was woken up by a dad and daughter. They brought food. “I was so ashamed. Usually I hide well during the night, but I was so tired.” B. only has a summer-sleeping bag. I  swallow, and with that i swallow the only words that I could have said. Time expands. It feels like we’ve been here for hours. There’s more, much more, but stories are just limited containers of reality.  And stories are forgotten, but the big smiles of people are not.

He tells me I’m the only one who stopped to talk today. Who made him feel like he’s worth it. I just borrowed time, isn’t that what we always do when we care. And I’m close to crying, that’s reality. Between talking personal stories, and class inequalities,  money, racism. imagine yourself simply unable to afford a roof above your head. At some point, I contribute to his bus ticket. In between pointed fingers, I meet a Viennese geography invisible to me. In the end, we go separate ways.  I don’t know what will happen to B. I wish him the life that he deserves, and I wish you to care. And to just remember, how many B.s might be out there. How many.

// I walk away, into the privilege of warmth and at least towards the constructed illusion of home, with many questions, a certain anger and fresh awareness of social injustices and challenges – that I can’t solve, but I hope someone else will. First, we need to see. We need to dare to have those conversations that we’re afraid of. Cause they might change us. Cause we care. Well, That’s what makes us humam, doesn’t it?