the internet was down all morning.
frustrated from hours trying to fix it myself, i walked to the tavern down the street for late breakfast and early whiskey.
it's the only place for a decent meal on the north side. it’s a little pricey. i know the manager well enough for chats about food, alcohol, politics, whatever. he seems like a nice guy. he seems like a bar manager. i found a stool at the bar, near the front. he brought my drink and took my order. outside, the sun toiled through slow clouds as
and woman walked in
and heavy coats.
his face like busted sidewalks.
hers ashy and grey from winter.
they were dirty. everything they carried was dirty. everything they carried smelled like labor.
i can place faces on most street people around there, but not those two; they were from a different place; from a different misery.
the man told the manager they had 17 dollars. what could they get for 10?
the manager ignored the man’s admission.
he sat them in a booth. he gave them menus. he told them to order what they want. he told them he would work it out. he spoke to them as he spoke to everyone: his approach remained unchanged. he brought them coffee. he brought them juice between other customers. he finally brought them hot food. he asked if everything looked okay.
the woman stared ahead. eyes heavy. speech heavy. she said, “this looks almost too good to eat." the man’s eyes erupted. his voice like dry leaves. his “thank you” faded into thin coughs.
a lump formed in my throat. i swallowed it with my drink and stood. i exited. i walked away from there,
my wallet 22 dollars smaller.
i walked away from there…
you just feel that way.
from Barely Half in an Awkward Line by Jay Halsey published by Really Serious Literature
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