Sunday, November 20, 2005

day twelve

war veteran. disabled.
need $$ for food and medication.
please help. god bless you

i’m leaving starbucks with the usual: a ‘venti’ vanilla latte. that they can’t just call it ‘large’ like everyone else bothers me immensely. each time i order, i feel like i’m in a foreign country, unsure if i’m pronouncing it properly and wondering if the college preppie serving the coffee, with his midnight blue turtle-neck and rectangular glasses, is chuckling to himself at my inept attempts.

as the upcoming winter approaches, the air outside has hit a sharp cold. i zip up my fleece jacket, pull my knit beanie over my ears, and hold the warm cup of coffee with both hands. the freezing air bites at my knuckles and wrist. i focus on my latte. it’s still hot, but succumbing to the cold with every moment. with each sip the steam warms my face but quickly fades. i hold it closer to my face. focusing. it’s warm. i should be warm. i should be in hawaii. i should be dying in the tropics. in the heat of the sun, along the warm sandy beaches. not here. not in the cold. it’s just too symbolic. too cliché.

distracting myself with coffee and dreams of another life (or another end of it), i accidentally bump into something. no, it’s somebody. wrapped in a grey wool blanket and sitting in a makeshift wheel chair, he barely moves. a cardboard sign written with black marker covers his face. the only sign of life being the occasional puffs of breath which crystallize in the air and float away with the soft winter breeze. i don’t apologize. and i don’t acknowledge him. and i act like i didn’t notice. and i keep walking. and i can’t get him out of my mind.

as i distance myself away from him, the image burns deeper into my brain. the latte is now cold and useless. i toss into a nearby waste bin and reach into my pocket, pulling out a tattered and worn leather wallet. it’s the only remaining connection to my teenage youth. who’d have thought that those were my middle ages? my mid-life crisis wasn’t resolved with a sports car and bimbo blonde half my age. it was resolved with an ’83 toyota tercel. white. hatch-back. rust all over. with a car like that, the blonde bimbo is out of the question. in fact, any girl is out of the question. i didn’t care then. i had the whole world ahead of me. i had years to counter all that. or so i thought.

hidden between the endless collection of receipts is a ten-dollar bill. andrew jackson. not sure what he ever did for our nation. i pull it out and tell myself to turn around and give it to him. he may be a con. it doesn’t matter. i won’t be needing it much longer anyways. i tell myself to do it. i tell myself i should. i tell myself it is cold. i tell myself that the twenty steps to return to him would turn into forty more steps of bitter cold before reaching my warm apartment. i put the bill back into my wallet and keep walking.

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