Stunned is the word for what happened to me when I did a good deed this weekend.
I was entering a market and a woman sitting outside belted out: “Spare a couple dollars for a sandwich.”
“Come inside and pick something,” I quickly ushered her in. Luckily the vegetable pannini was only five dollars. “Can I get a soda?” she asked.
“Okay,” I said and she came back with a San Pellegrino.
“How much?” I queried the cashier. “Seven dollars,” she said. I paid and started my own shopping.
“Thank you, thank you.” The woman hurried outside to her perch in front of the store.
As I exited with my own provisions I thought the woman might have a mental illness. She might collect SSI and not have money this far along in the month to buy food. She was not skeletal like a heroin addict and did not wear long sleeves. Her hair was immaculate and she wore a tee shirt and pants.
I have a good nature so I didn’t think the woman had money and was too cheap to want to buy her own food. She might have been on the cusp of becoming homeless.
Kelly Cutrone in her book Normal Gets You Nowhere excoriates Christians and other shoppers who go in and out of stores buying $19.99 junk gifts and step around homeless people in front of the stores. No one gives these subway grate fixtures money or offers to buy them a slice of pizza.
Today I was tested: I bought a woman begging for change a meal. My intuition tells me she might have had a mental illness and couldn’t afford food this far along in the month.
I do not like to think she was an ordinary woman too cheap to buy her own meals. A song title claims the singer “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” and this might have been talking about the scraps of love he wanted a woman to give him. Yet it would astound me if the woman had no pride and was too cheap to buy her own food.
This is a great mystery to me right now.
The trains were running late and it took me two hours to get home. By then my broccoli rabe was wilted. The delice soft cheese was melted.
It was another hot night in a cool city.