Without really looking, I figured this guy was homeless. He was standing outside the 7-11 by the trash can. He had a pink and black plaid backpack. The backpack was devastating. Here was some nice homeless guy who needed a back pack and the only one he could get from the place where homeless people get backpacks was pink and black plaid. Jesus. He was eating an apple fritter. Homeless. Then I saw his Sprite sitting on top of the trash can. I had not been expecting booze, so I seriously don’t know why that Sprite made me look closer. It was just a Sprite.
He and his clothes were clean. Shirt was tucked in and his hair was combed perfectly. Something about his face made me want to cry. “Good morning,” he said. I said, “Hello,” and kept walking. “I’m waiting for that bank to open and I don’t think they open til nine,” he said. I said, “Yeah, I hate that.” “Well, have a good morning,” he said. “You too,” I said and walked inside.
Here’s what I was thinking while I was inside: Fuck. That guy made me sad. I shouldn’t be getting this diet Coke. I don’t have the money to spend on stupid shit like diet Coke. What other shit makes me sad like that guy out front? My mom buying me spiral notebooks when I was in college. Watching my hands make a sandwich for myself. The guy out front. Is this depression? No. I shouldn’t be buying this. The toll tag overdrafted my account this morning which wouldn’t have happened without all these fucking diet Cokes. Pour out some ice. Lid. Straw. This fucking plastic straw wrapper. Sad guy outside. What else did my mom buy for me in college that made me sad? Beer, cigarettes, dentist, gas, and all sorts of other shit but nothing like those fucking spiral notebooks. Why the notebooks? Why that guy outside? Why my hands making me sandwiches? How would my mom feel reading this? There’s the pretty Mexican lady with green eye shadow. There’s something different about her too. So glad I could transfer money from savings so I could buy this diet Coke. Fuck. Homeless guy again. Maybe he’s not homeless. What the hell am I going to write about today?
I looked at his shoes, which were nice enough, and said, “Have a good one.” He said, “You too, sir.” Fuck. The “sir” killed me. This guy was at least ten years older than me. Does he think he should say “sir” out of respect, like I have my shit together or something? Man, he was eating the shit out of that apple fritter. He hadn’t touched his Sprite yet. I got in my car, wondering about his homelessness or lack thereof. If that guy is homeless, then he’s a hell of a lot better man than me. I would not be clean. My hair would not be combed. I would be too ashamed to eat my apple fritter in front of the 7-11. I would not carry a pink and black plaid backpack. I would be dead, most likely. At least drunk. But not this guy. He was all of those things and doing all those things and calling me “sir.”
Getting into my car, I thought that I would love to go back and hang out with this guy. Skip work. I thought that being rich would be cool, so I could just hang out with random people any time I wanted. I thought about what we would do if we hung out today. How would the money work? Like, should I offer to buy him breakfast or something? Maybe he has plenty of money. He might feel shamed if I offered to buy him breakfast or lunch or anything else. In reality, he could totally have more money than me. Well, maybe not if I was rich enough to not work and hang out with random people who made me sad, but you get the idea.
Driving to work, I was still thinking about what I was going to write about. Is there a point to the spiral notebooks and the guy who made me sad in front of the 7-11? Would anyone want to read that shit? Probably not.
I don’t have a patient until one, so I sat down and wrote this. I realized that his broke is really my broke and his shame is my shame. It’s all a bunch of shit I projected onto this guy. Maybe it was just the apple fritter that made me make the connection. I would have been eating the same thing. I realize how ridiculous that sounds. I just know that those are pretty cheap and have enough calories to last a long time. But they’re not that cheap and the Sprite is definitely not cheap at all. But maybe it’s feeling like a new day and he’s hopeful. Maybe he thinks something magical is going to happen at the bank, like a small business loan. At nine, I’ll have plenty of money. I’ll be on my way. I’ll be useful and happy. All of this pain is about to be over. Maybe he wants to own a food truck. Maybe he was a cook in the military. Maybe he makes hand-made leather belts—a skill his grandfather taught him. Maybe he was just testing all the pastries in town to perfect his own recipe for when he opens his bakery.
Shit, I guess I ended up writing about money.