My heart raced with my feet as I skipped out the door of the local Starbucks. ‘Too much espresso,’ I thought. ‘Nah, no such thing.’
I felt the water squish into my sandals as I walked to my car – I’ve always gotten a little grossed out by wet shoes and rainwater between my toes. Not one to let anything destroy my espresso-induced happy high, I slipped into my car and turned the radio on to carry a tune with me on the way home.
My mind barreled through the things I have to do today, my neurons taking stock and making sticky notes of the things I promise myself I won’t forget.
And then I saw him.
As I pulled up to the red light, my mind went quickly to ‘are my doors locked?’ mode, which I immediately felt guilty about – this man had done nothing to deserve my fear – but as a young woman in this world, I can’t help but look at every man that I don’t know with skepticism about their capabilities and intentions. His black shirt was hardly a shirt, tattered everywhere, exposing his tan, leathery back that told stories of how much weight it had been carrying from his shoulders for who knows how many years, which I assumed were many because of his hair that now had more salt than pepper, and his eyes, lined with memories that I wonder if he wished he could forget.
He stood on the sidewalk next to my passenger side door, waiting for the light to turn for him to cross, holding a bushel of flattened cardboard boxes. I looked around my car for something – anything – that I could give him to say “I don’t know you but I love you anyway and I’m sorry this has happened to you and I wish I could take away your pain” – but I had nothing. I didn’t have a water bottle to quench his thirst, a Clif bar to feed his malnourished belly, or cash to at least let him go get something for himself.
The walking signal turned and he began to cross in front of my car. As he got halfway across, I suddenly saw his cardboard makeshift sandals covering only the balls of his feet, soaked from the rain, strapped on with rubber bands.
And to think we have the audacity to call this country ‘civilized.’
I looked down at my own soaked sandals, sank into my seat, and cried.