Have you ever been walking down the street, minding your own business, in a hurry to get wherever you’re going, maybe to an appointment with your tax man, or maybe just to meet an old friend for coffee, when you happen to meet one of those people’s eyes? Homeless people, or as my old man’d called them–bums. And did you ever get the feeling that until you looked at them, met their eyes, they didn’t truly exist? As people, that is. Kind of like window dressing. Or a street light. There but not there.
Last night I looked. And now I can’t sleep, can’t eat, can’t do nothing but think about those eyes.
I’d come out of Delmonico’s feeling fine, belly full of prime rib, a good-looking woman on my arm, and the night still young. All through dinner Veronica’d been playing footsie under the table and batting those mile-long eyelashes at me. I’d known what dessert was going to be, and it was going to be good.
Maggie’s belly gnawed on her backbone. The half-eaten Big Mac and soggy fries the fat man had tossed out his car window into the gutter yesterday afternoon had long since been digested by her scrawny frame. Now, here it was almost midnight a day later and no meal in sight. But she was used to being hungry. Since they’d put her out of the hospital a few years back, her belly had been empty a whole lot more than it’d been full.
“Steak sounds good,” she said to the empty streets. “Think I’ll go by Delmonaco’s.” If she was lucky, maybe she could fish one out of the dumpster in back.
Pushed by a frigid north wind, crackly brown leaves skittered along the sidewalk, danced around Maggie’s feet, then disappeared into the blackness of the alleyway behind her. Ice pellets freckled her face. Beneath four layers of clothing, she shivered. Pausing, she pulled the ratty knit cap firmly down over her ears, then grabbed a threadbare blanket out of the chaos of dingy rags wadded in her shopping cart, and draped it over her shoulders.
Maggie wondered if she would survive the winter. Her arthritic joints griped constantly, and their combined voices were getting harder to ignore with each passing year. Even her brain had grown stiff. Continue reading