He had stationed himself in front of a Grocery Outlet discount supermarket on Bayshore Boulevard in San Francisco. I had just stopped by for some Dr Pepper. I’m addicted to Dr Pepper. As I walked toward him he asked me if I could help him out a little. A little was about all I had jangling loose in my pocket so I gave him all three bucks of it. He thanked me for the money and said he appreciated the help because he’d had two heart attacks and lost his job while recovering from the second one.
“That’s why I’m in this wheel chair pretty often,” he said.
“I can relate,” I said, “I had a heart attack myself fourteen years ago, three weeks shy of my 40th birthday.”
That look people get when they think they’ve found a kindred spirit flashed across his face, and he started telling me details about his first heart attack. Frankly I had no desire to swap myocardial infarction stories. I still periodically suffer from PTSD because of mine and talking about it has never helped. That shit just gives me nightmares I don’t need. So I told him very apologetically that I really needed to get my shopping done and then went inside the store.
I was in and out of the supermarket with my Dr Pepper in less than five minutes, but when I emerged the man in the wheel chair was gone. And I felt bad about that, because I was going to give him three dollars change from the $10 bill I had just used to pay the clerk for my liquid fix. But I did feel good that our lives had intersected, even if minutes later they probably had diverged forever. I hope he felt the same way. It’s better to know people in a few fleeting minutes and let them enrich your life than to never know them at all.
And I wonder if he wheeled himself out of the grocery store parking lot or walked pushing the chair in front of him. I hope he walked.
(San Francisco, California, February 2018. See my other work here and here.)