The cocky son of a b**** smirked his way down the street. Up ahead was a unshaven man panhandling. Wearing tattered pants stained with urine, shoes that were to big, with missing laces, and a shirt that was from many years earlier, a gift from the thrift shop on 17th street. His stubble was rough and sharp, he wished he had a blade. The haughty young man saw the homeless one as another statistic, a number he read about in the New York Times. But as the man said "Change sir?" the arrogant boy looked down with uncertainty. Their eyes met. The blazing cobalt eyes showed the young man the truth. The naive child saw a man who had been thrown from the house by a mom who loved the drink more than him. He had spent the night on a bench in the snow five blocks from where he was now. The cold metal bit his skin and the wind whirled around him, flinging loose snow into the crevasses in his clothes and skin. The streetlights above him flickered and he needed to lose himself. As he fell asleep an ambulance screamed in the ink black night. The next day he lifted his backpack and signed up for vietnam. Once there he saw napalm engulf forests in great bursts of flame, men taking their last breaths as they told him to tell their parents this, or ask him to stop the pain, he saw children blown up by their parents in suicide bombs, and he got hooked on crack. He lost himself. He landed back in New York and went back to his bench. The boy's eyes showed what the old man thought they would. The chestnut eyes showed a boy with parents who love him, got good grades and had the world in front of him on a sterling silver platter. He had never gone to bed hungry. Never pulled a blanket over his own mom because she had passed out drunk. Never felt the real pain. The intense pain that consumed dreams and hopes. That burned love and goodwill. Their eyes broke and the young man continued home where the smell of chicken and herbs would waft through the door and he would sit down with his family and discuss hardships far away from them. The old man sat against the tough brick and gave his McDonald's cup a rattle as people walked by. The old man felt as much pity for the young man as the young man felt for the poor panhandler who slept on the street.
January 14, 2008