Time To Settle Accounts
January 10, 2012: Hungry.
The man sat on the Blue Line, his head in his hands, tears on his cheeks. He was in his 40s, with the last remnants of hair on the sides of his head. He wore blue jeans and a brown, suede coat and clean work boots and he was crying lightly and praying.
It was early afternoon, a steady supply of commuters filling the train. Another man sat next to the bald, tearful man, and the tearful man scooted over a bit and kept his stare straight ahead.
I was standing next to the door, leaning against the plate glass window, reading; I was on my way to the Billy Goat for lunch, and now I wanted to know why this man was crying. We made brief eye contact and I released a nervous, kind smile, and his face flickered and he rested his head on his balled up hands.
He returned to his world, and then out of the silence his voice called out: “Does anyone have some food I can eat that they are not eating?” Then he was quiet once more, his head on his fists, and then his hands praying, and then his fingers wiping tears. A man preparing to exit the train pulled a foil-wrapped sandwich from his pocket and handed it wordlessly to the bald man. The bald man nodded in thanks and unwrapped the foil. It was peanut butter and jelly cut in rectangles. The crying man examined it briefly. Chomp-chomp-chomp and one piece was gone. He ate most of the other half and re-wrapped what was left, setting the foil on the train floor between his boots.
I was getting off at Jackson and I checked my page number and set my book in my coat pocket. On my way off I set my hand on the man’s shoulder, and he looked at me with a mixture of shame and pain and thanks and hopelessness. I smiled stupidly and patted him once more. It was the most I could do.
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