Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fair Trade

The young man sitting at the table next to me keeps clearing his throat.

At first I think it might be the low rumble of some piece of coffee house machinery, but I hazard a glance to my right and see the guy working the muscles in his throat. It looks like a tick, not like he actually has anything stuck in there.

He looks young, maybe my age or a few years shy. Long, dark brown hair that falls in front of his face and doesn't seem to be recently washed. He's wearing jeans, sneakers with the laces untied, and a too-big winter coat. A stuffed, ragged bag lays at his feet. Sometimes he just sits and stares out the window for a few minutes without moving. Now his hand is raised, waving back and forth as though he's conducting some invisible symphony.

I think he must be homeless, probably, and not entirely level in the head. There are a lot of street kids that hang out in this area. A lot of transient adults, too. Most keep to themselves, I assume focused less on the mobs of students going to and from class and more on finding some place to sleep tonight. He's quiet, looking far away, not all there. I think he's too young for that. Too young to be so abandoned already.

A woman, one of the owners of this coffee shop, comes and sits at his table. Asks him if he has any family nearby, a place to stay. I hear him say something about how only one person still talks to him anymore, and they live in Rockton. Illinois? she asks. He nods and mumbles something else. I think it's nice that she's talking to him instead of just kicking him out. I guess.

I don't hear the whole conversation, but it ends in him shuffling to his feet and leaving. I don't think there was any resolution, nowhere for him to go, just another move-along-please but, to her credit, nicer said than some.

Another young man comes to sit in the now vacant seat, laptop in hand, but the woman tells him to wait, "I'm going to wash off the table first."


Daniel Stout said...

This vignette is perfectly rendered. Nicely done! On a human level, there is always that tug to help someone, and when I can I do. But sometimes just observing the situation can be informative and inspirational for creating action and change on a larger, more systemic level.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if he did some rough trade he'd make some dough

The Lost Albatross