I couldn’t stand out there in the cold, leaning against a building, waiting for people to pull up into the drive-thru so I could hit them up for a dollar. Not without losing some of my mind. My mental faculties wander around just waiting for the coffee to brew in the morning. So what’s my dollar? What is it really? Yes, I know you’re a drunk, loser, alcoholic, whatever. And in the grand scheme of things, what difference does it make?
I remember being a child, sleeping on the cold, hard surface of the kitchen floor in front of the refrigerator vent. It was warmer there than under the worn blanket laying on the bed that sat next to the cracked window, letting in all of winter’s wind.
I was a child and felt what you feel. I was helpless then; now I’m not. What have I done with what I’ve learned? What have I learned? Pitifully little. How can I turn you down, a grown human child? Yes, you’re going to spend it on liquor or cigarettes, so what? So was I, at some point. So my dollar puts you that much closer to your misguided need. What are my misguided needs? I’m the one sitting in this drive-thru waiting for one stupidly overpriced soda while you curl up the collar of your jacket against the wind. How did I get to be the acceptable one and you the shunned? You asked kindly enough.
Why did it hurt to watch you walk up the street? It hurts because I’m not disconnected. Oh, I want to be. I want to think I am. I want to say you and I did not come from the same mould. I want to say we don’t share the same fears and idiosyncrasies — you from yours and me from mine. I’ve deliberately detached and what have I lost in the process? What else do I not feel, see, and hear? What tic of the heart do I now have as a result of cutting myself off from those just like me, only not as warm?
So here guy, here’s the dollar. It’s all you asked for and I don’t know what else to give you. I don’t know what else I have to give that you would want. I’ll tell the drive thru people I changed my mind. They’ll know it had something to do with me giving you the dollar and they’ll think less of both of us. It’s only fair.
You’ve moved on to where your next dollar is going to come from and, in the comfort of my car, in the middle of the drive-thru, I write about your affect on me.
What a humbling place to learn.