The late summer streets are full of the dirty and the desperate, the lonely, the dentally bereft. Their bags at their feet, cardboard signs on their laps, they offer blessings and pleas in exchange for your spare coins.
Anything Will Help.
I sidestep them, try not to look at their belongings, their dogs.
I am looking for one man.
I find him on my third block up the bus route. His age is hard to guess, the knuckles of his hands large and twisted. His hair has not been cut in years, his long white/yellow beard plaited and hanging mid-torso.
I owe this man something.
It was last Friday that we had met, a day on which the weight of the changes in my life these past four months fell through my chest and left a hollow, aching cavity. The remnants of my heart made a booming sound in my ears, and the noise of the city had been reduced to an alien buzz that made no sense to me.
I had been wounded, and no one around me knew.
The man was seated, and I had walked right into his legs. Our eyes met.
And he saw me.
He held out his hand. “It’s a beautiful day,” he said, gently.
I nodded. My throat closing, I continued to nod.
He set his sign down. “It’s a beautiful day,” he repeated. “Say it.”
“It’s a beautiful day,” I whispered, tears running down my face. I swallowed repeatedly, pulled my favorite hankie, the purple and cream one, from my purse and dabbed my eyes. “My bus is coming,” I said, clumsily. I turned away.
“Bless you,” he called after me.
Today, I find him where I had found him last, seated near the IDS Center.
I reach into my purse where I have stashed a five. I approach him, hold it out, and he takes it with eager fingers.
“You smiled at me last Friday,” I say. The wind is gusting, and my carefully styled hair blows up, over, around. My skirt and jacket, carefully matched the night before, do the same. “You said some kind things, and it made a big difference in my day.”
He stares at the five, then up at me.
“Well bless you, child,” he says, smiling.
“No,” I say, backing away from him and toward the bus stop. “You.”