Wednesday, January 29, 2014
#WCW #flashfiction: He wore an old scarf.
There were holes in it that had been burned by cigarettes or were the result of dropped stitches or snags, but the scarf was very wide, almost, like a shawl. He had swathed his head in it much like a burka under his battered coat. He was hunkered down by the side of the road, doing his best to stay out of the draft of the cars that were whizzing past him. His breath was hanging in the air and the scarf had ice crystals forming on it. He wasn't even bothering to hold up the sign that I always saw in his possession. Instead he had his hands shoved deep into his pockets and his shoulders hunched forward to keep any heat that he could into his torso.
"Oh, of course," I thought, as the light turned red. Now I was face-to-face with this poor man. I had very little in the way of money - only a couple of dollars to get lunch. I wished there was something I could do for him. But then, I always wished there was something I could do for him.
The priest who ran the local food pantry was always saying, "Don't give them any change. It won't be used for any good purpose." But, I knew differently.
This was my neighborhood. I'd been without a car for about five years, and knew that this particular man shopped at Kroger in the evenings after all the meat was marked down at the end of the night. He and his companions in the homeless encampment had helped me numerous times to get my wagon across the train tracks. Not that this guy was squeaky clean.
No. I'd seen him drunk and lying in the middle of Broad St. He was daring the cars to hit him. I think he really did want to die that night. I remember watching the cops trying to drag him out of the street. He didn't want to go. I had been where he was. And I had so much more to live for.
My attention snapped back to the present as the left turn arrow turned green. I only had a minute. In his naked desperation, he looked up at me and our eyes locked. I knew I wasn't going to have coffee with my lunch, today.