When the train left Roosevelt – the second one – and picked up into midtown, the boy noticed the car’s population remained diverse, but grew younger, lighter and prettier. More made up, more fashionably dressed, and more GQ. People going to their work, no doubt, they’d pick up their look just as much as he did.
And he rode the rest of the train is good spirit. The few exceptions to the fashionably dressed seemed tired or older, or were begging. Two beggers he had known, had the exact speech and sometimes came into his car more than once a day. This one was newer, and hurt. She could walk through the train but she had less charisma, her pitch sounded more higher strung and whiney. Surely, she was not a perfect companion through her life of misfortune.
He mulled it over as she paced all the way down the car, watched her not possibly know that just two stops before her that another begger had made a much more successful round. After she reached the end she turned:
“I’ve got to say. You know, I don’t have any expectations for help or hand-outs from anyone-“
He pursed his lips. He did feel bad, but he wasn’t sure he entirely agreed with her statement either.
“-but I have to say, I just walked up and down the subway and, not only did not one give me not a penny, but only one person could bothered to say ‘I’m sorry I don’t have anything.’ You know, I didn’t ask to be homeless, I lost my job and my husband-“
He stopped listening and just felt bad. Sure she had a sad story, although at least she had a husband. That was worth something, right?
No, he just felt bad. But he barely had enough to support his lifestyle of serving and occasional smoke and hanging out at home. He had already given a dollar away to the man missing 4 front teeth who very gently said hi and bye to everyone in that mentally disabled voice whether or not they actually gave. It was nice out, and if the man had a cup of coffee, well it was more valuable to live in a world where a stranger occasionally would buy you a cup of coffee without your being a pushy asshole. And now, he was all tapped out.
So he continued to check out the rest of the car or read the advertisements and notices. And he kept his thoughts beneath a stony expression when she walked past again and got off the train. (He knew she would make another round, and he wished her better luck.)
When he got out in midtown, he stepped on the street, and saw the incoming crowd of people bustling with very disturbed expressions. One blonde woman obviously had the guilt look on her face, but there was also a cringe. This was not the look of enjoyment, there was something about an unhappy decision in that look.
Probably an intense homeless man up, the boy could feel it.
And he wasn’t wrong. Squirming, something was wrong in the nervous system, aggressively and desperately shaking his cup at anyone able to walk by on two feet.
“Please mista!” The hooded, beared beggar waved the cup at the boy. So pleading. “You have to buy me something to eat!”
And sure, he didn’t have to do anything, and the boy just looked sad, he wondered how could he express compassion but he only had a 20 dollar bill in his wallet. He had already given the first homeless man by his perch in the subway that last dollar.
“I’m so sorry.”
But the beggar’s coup de grace wasn’t spoken or argued. When the boy considered his apology and looked down, he saw on the beggars dark legs bright red pustering blisters. Open sores, recently drying, and the boy couldn’t at all blame the beggar for not rolling his pants down. It must have hurt. It must have hurt to even walk. Diabetes does that sometimes, if you’re unlucky and have to get an amputation especially. He knew because of his more fortunate family which he now thought of, or his less fortunate late uncle who too, endured an absurdly failing lower limb circulation. That was probably it.
The boy wanted to turn around, ask the beggar if he knew about Medicaid™., or tell him listen, he really had to get medical help. That, maybe if the people of midtown manhattan had to buy him food to live the week, he wouldn’t get what he needed to live the year. But he was late for work, and he had his own job.
He arrived just two minutes late, late enough that his manager wouldn’t care, and with much more than enough time to set up tables. The bartender wasn’t in yet, which wasn’t a surprise. Everyone knew the bartender was a tired vet.
Caramel colored hand by candle light, the boy set many wicks on fire and set down many tea candles on many table surfaces. He input his code into the POS, ordered himself a water, squeezed some of the fluid from a maraschino cherry from his garnish.
And at 5pm, a man came in. Bald, 300 dollar peacoat which looked very much like the server’s. Handlebar mustache, hard, this man waxed it.
Skeptical look came across the lad, something assessing as he slowly went to the bar and lay his coat over it. The server came over and greeted him with a smile, feeling that they had already gotten off on the wrong foot but ready to charm the man off balance anyway. Perhaps the man was angry that his server wasn’t female. Perhaps the man was skeptical that his server knew how to speak politely, and with curtesy dignifying a man of his station.
He ordered a Glenlivet, 18 year, and as the server himself made the 40 dollar pour he looked up again to smile past the man’s scowl.
Still scowling. About him? Maybe not. Maybe something about himself. Who knows? But a 20% tip on a 40 dollar cocktail is more than a couple subway rides, so perhaps the man can scowl a whole lot if he’d like, and the server would withhold the fact that a nice whole bottle of this stuff was just 23 dollars only a half mile down, or that if you went 3 bars down, outside of this lounge, that the regulated pour was actually a whole half ounce more and still 35% cheaper.
People like this would not care about such little things.
“Two ice cubes only.” The man corrected.
“Absolutely sir, no problem.” The boy smiled again.