A few days ago, I ran into an old coworker. He told me that he’d just lost his job. His girlfriend had too, he said, then pointed at a sad short girl standing in the doorway of the convenience store. She had a dazed expression on her face. I looked at the brace on her foot and he told me that she’d sprained her ankle. In fact, he explained, he’d hurt his foot too and that was how he lost his job. He lifted up his right foot and pointed. I followed his finger to the foot. There was no visible sign of his injury. “We both injured the same foot. How about that?”
I nodded my head sympathetically and tried to think of a quick one-liner, maybe something about not being able to run the three-legged race. It didn’t really come together though.
He asked me, “Do you have a quarter?”
“Oh sure.” I imagined that he needed to make a phone call. I fished around in my jacket pocket and pulled out all of my change – 22 cents.
“We’re broke and need beer money,” he went on. “We were able to get enough together for rent, but there’s nothing left. So we came down here to get beer and just decided, Fuck it. We’ll just spare-change.”
I had the 22 cents in my hand and he was waiting expectantly, so I handed it over. I said good-bye and good luck to both of them. His girlfriend’s eyes focused when I waved at her, and she game me a rather blank smile.
Yesterday, I was walking up the same street. As I walked past two people huddled together on a park bench, I recognized the sick looking woman from the other day. I turned to give a quick nod hello and got an eyeful. Beside her was an old man, he was mumbling into her ear, drunk or high. He hugged her with one arm and clumsily tweaking and fondling her with the other. She didn’t react at all. She just sat completely still, wearing the same expressionless smile.
I understand little of what’s going on and yet I feel like I know more than I want to.