Toney Butler

Toney Butler loiters outside the center for the visual arts in Denton waiting to go to St. Andrews for lunch where he goes every day. He’s a private person and keeps to himself

“No not really. I had a few friends here but not lately, you know?” Butler laughs, “Kind of burned those bridges.”

Butler, from Lewisville, is staying at the Denton homeless shelter right now and has for the past year and a half. He’s not sure what caused him to be homeless. He says he is looking for work but hasn’t thought about what he wants to do and will go to the Denton Public Library to “do different research and stuff on the library computers.”

Student, Chipotle, Denton, Denton Square, Medical School

Gloria and Gladys

After interviewing Megan, the wind that pushed the clouds out of the sun’s way continues to keep the air cool. I walk around City Hall and spot the source of the cold.  Gloria sits next to her cousin Gladys on a bench on the square. Gloria pulls a burrito and Gladys a bowl from the brown Chipotle take-out bag that separates them. The older of the two firmly plants her back against the wood with confidence as Gladys strains to avoid it.

The wind picks up and Gloria rotates her shoulders to talk to Gladys better as the latter starts on her bowl. Despite living less than 30 miles down 35, Gloria hasn’t seen her “in a while” and decided it was time to visit her apartment, hang out and talk. I walk around and interview two other women as I keep them in the corner of my eye.

After graduating from Lewisville High School, Gloria went to UT Dallas and studied neuroscience. Now she’s completing a master’s in public health and is planning on medical school. Gladys, from Garland, lives in an apartment in Denton while she studies biology in a Bachelor of Science program at TWU. Gladys hopes to join Gloria and two of their cousins in medicine.

I finish interviewing Ana and Barbara, look back over at Gloria and Gladys. Gloria whispering to Gladys who smiles as she takes another small bite from her food. It looks like they’re almost done. I better go grab then now before they walk away. I explain myself and extend the invitation for an interview, which Gloria accepts for the two with skepticism. I start the recorder. Gladys continues to eat but I notice Gloria hasn’t  started on her burrito.

“What makes you the most happy in life?” I ask after some introductory questions Gloria answered.

“God,” Gloria says. She’s firm- it’s the only logical answer.

“And family,” Gladys adds for her cousin, her back still arced over the Chipotle bowl in her lap.

An awkward pause.

“What’s the worst thing in life?” I direct toward Gladys.

“Hate. Suffering,” Gladys responds.

“To me it’s not fulfilling your purpose…”Gloria tries to add.

“Failure,” Gladys responds again.

“Yeah, I mean you’re talking short term versus long term. If you’re looking at the long term, the general purpose of life, I think that the worst thing could be to live indifferent and sort of jaded- a mediocre existence. Being mediocre would be the worst thing that could happen in your life. Not fulfilling the purpose…”

Gladys plants her palms down and picks up her chin to cut her off, “Of what you’re supposed to do. What you’re called to do.”

“[I never feel like I’m not fulfilling that] because even being pre-med and all that, and I know a lot of people say it, I know the stuff that I’ve gone through and am going through now is moving me toward that goal of caring for people. Obviously you don’t have to be a doctor to help people and care for people. There are so many ways I could reach out to others. But this is the particular way I am supposed to be walking… as a doctor. No, not only as a doctor. I plan to be a counselor also.”

“I’d agree with that too and also failure maybe. Like not living up to your full potential. I feel like everyone has that thing they’re supposed to do and a lot of people don’t live up to it and spend the rest of their lives regretting. So I guess regret would be another one of the worst things that could happen.”

“Have you ever experienced regret?”

“I’m really young, so I guess not really, not yet. I mean hopefully I never have to experience it. Every day is a new experience and that’s how I’m trying to take it and not regret anything because, in all the experiences I had, I had a choice. I don’t regret anything yet, that I’ve done.”

“Obviously, there are things that you look back and go realize it would have been wise if you had done such and such. But in the end, I know that the things that you did wrong you can look back and realize you learned something from it.”

“And you can laugh about it too.”

“And not only that but, I’m not trying to get religious on anyone but when you walk with God, all your regrets and those things in life will be sure to work out in the end. That’s my philosophy,” Gloria says as she finally savors the first bite of her burrito.