“I’m from Italy,” says Marco. “I worked at an Insurance agency there. I left my job because I didn’t like it that much. I was really depressed and I wanted another experience out of life, so I left. I went to Ibiza. I was alone there for four days before I decided to go to Columbia. That’s where I met Bartet.”
We’re inside Hi Rise Bakery, at the corner of Larimer and 22nd Street. Marco is sitting in front of Jennifer. And Bartet is outside, pacing the sidewalk. He’s jonesing for a cigarette, asking strangers if he can have one. I watch through the window as a stranger lends him a smoke.
Our coffees come to the table. Two lattes and a cappuccino. “Thank you for the cappuccino,” says Marco.
Marco is confident, but soft-spoken. His presence, coupled with his Italian accent, give off a calming energy. He sips his cappuccino, and looks into my lens as I take a photo of Jennifer and him conversing about the places he has traveled to.
“Rome. Naples. Columbia. Mexico City…”
Marco lists, in no particular order, place after place.
“…Ibiza, San Francisco, and then we came here, to Denver.”
Bartet is still outside. With one hand he holds his cigarette. His other arm is wrapped around a lamp post. His feet are off the ground, one leg kicked up in the air behind him, as he swings around and around. He swings with a child-like zeal. People pass by and smile, some laugh, others stare. But Bartet just keeps swinging.
He sees me looking at him. I, too, smile. He waves, points his index finger in the air and says something. I can’t hear him through the glass, but I read his lips. “One second,” he says.
A few minutes pass. Bartet walks into the coffee shop and over to our table. Marco excuses himself, going outside for some fresh air. Bartet sits down and begins his story.
“My mom wanted me to go into Telecommunications and stay near her,” says Bartet. “She has a lot of children and she tried to get me to stay. But it was best to leave. My dad died when I was four because of alcoholism. And I picked up alcoholism back home, too. So I left.”
“I love Jesus, and that’s where I find happiness,” says Bartet. “God is everywhere, I think. From the lyrics of Pink Floyd to the streets. He is everywhere. That’s why I like to travel, because you see so much of God and people.”
He goes on for several more minutes, speaking about his spirituality and God. He talks about angels and spirits. He talks about how he believes they are watching over him, protecting him. He talks about his friend, Marco.
As he talks he does so with his eyes closed, pondering over his thoughts before he speaks them into words. A few decades ago, he would have been identified as a hippy. But to him, he is simply spiritual, connected to a power greater than himself. It’s this connection that inspires him to keep going, to keep traveling.
“Our experiences help define us,” says Bartet. “They connect us. I don’t want to stay in one place. I always want to be adapting. Changing. Growing.”
Faces of The Mission is a blog series written by Jordan Smith, Denver Rescue Mission’s Writer/Photographer (with contributions by Emergency Services Coordinator, Jennifer Fitzgerald), offering insights and real life stories from people experiencing homelessness and hardships.