the internet was down all morning.
frustrated from hours trying to fix it myself, and hungover, i drive to the tavern down the street for late breakfast and a bloody mary.
it's the only place for a decent meal on the north side. it’s a little pricey. my lady and i know the manager. well enough at least for long table chats about food, alcohol, politics; whatever. he seems like a nice guy. it was just me this day, so i find a stool at the bar. near the front. he brings my drink and takes my order. outside, the sun toils through slow clouds.
a white man
and black woman walk in
and heavy coats.
his face like busted sidewalks.
hers chalky and grey from winter.
they are dirty. everything they carry is dirty. everything they carry smells of roads and old basements.
they are homeless.
i can place faces on most all street people around here, but not these two; they are from a different place; from a different misery.
the man tells the manager they have $17 cash.
what can they get? the manager ignores the man’s admission.
he seats them in a booth. he gives them menus. he tells them to choose what they want. he tells them he will work it out. he does not hesitate. he speaks to them as he speaks to me, and everyone else: his approach remains unchanged. he brings them coffee. he brings them juice between other customers. he brings them hot food. he asks if everything looks okay.
the woman stares ahead. her eyes heavy. her speech heavy. she says, “this looks like the best thing we've seen in a long time." the man’s eyes erupt. his voice like dry leaves. his ‘thank you’ fades into thin coughs.
a lump forms in my throat. i finish my drink. i exit. i walk away from there,
with a wallet $22 smaller
than when i arrived.
i walk away from there…
you just feel that way.