Miles from the aftermath, we spilled our guts to each other. Tales from the hours prior. Lacking rhythm and rhyme we expressed a plunge into the concrete jungle beneath. My heart pounds faster, stomach grows sicker. 8 o’clock. 9 o’clock. The stories continue in an outpour of unsettling perspective. My turn approaches, it was inevitable. 5 minutes. 10 minutes. A deep breath. Begin.
“Whole wheat bread, please.”
The day begins. Chinatown is an interesting set point, if only it appeared on the map our eyes scanned. Moments later… finally! Just blocks away. We walked in a hurried fashion, as if the cold would treat us with more compassion if we agreed to travel in haste. The clock ticks, the restless Sun refuses to wait. We had a mission, a goal. Something bigger than ourselves, bigger than any of us… or so we thought.
“Lettuce, tomato, the works. Just no peppers, the wind burns enough as it is.”
Spare change is a unique subject. As if any human in their right mind consciously separates the contents of their pockets, labeling the “undesirable” metal as “spares.” As we traveled deeper and deeper into the heart of this “town,” we saw more and more people who could use these “spares” more than any of us could. The clock ticks, the restless Sun refuses to wait.
“And a water, please, he would appreciate that, I’m sure.”
We reached our conclusion. Our goal was to feed a man, any man. 6 dollars isn’t a lot of money, but that’s okay. We were in college, we were used to “long periods of financial instability,” if you could call it that. Come to think of it, these periods seemed to last a long time for myself, but anyway…
“Excuse me,” she spoke softly, nudging the man’s shoulder. Disrupting the sleep of a perfect stranger is a delicate act, especially when the sleeper is in the middle of the sidewalk on a busy city street.
No response. The man was a depressing site himself. His long bushy gray beard took the backseat as a distinctive feature, second only to his eyes. They were brown, sunk into his calloused face, half closed, yet conscious.
“Excuse me, sir.” She begins again, wondering if this was such a good idea after all. The man looks to us, surprised as expected, yet subdued as if she was just another talking face.
The clock ticks, the restless Sun refuses to wait.
“Yes?” the man gestures as would I if someone had awoken me from an afternoon nap. “We brought you some food,” she replied in a sweet voice as I handed the man a bag with a sandwich and water.”God Bless You,” the man said as he seemingly went in and out of awareness, “I’ll eat it when I stand up.”
And that’s how it was. As if longing for something more, something outstanding, lasting, we parted ways. Back to the concrete, into the spiritual mouth of the lion, we were led, with knives cutting through our stomachs, and our throats at our knees. I kept looking back as I walked, hoping I would be able to see him stand up and take a bite. Just one bite. Just so I could see the tension in his eyes settle, and the tension in my mind depress. Nothing changed after that. We felt weaker than ever, as if a 5 dollar sandwich, became bite size. It is something we carried with us, however. Something we won’t forget. At that moment we became more mature. 20 was no longer just a number for me. We were the strangers here, we were strange. And the only thing that could change that is…
The clock stops, the restless pain refuses to wait.