Six dollars for a tiny brick of cheese. Six Goddamned dollars. Convenience. It’s a convenience store. Over four gets a two litre container of milk. He bristles at this reality daily, and then daily on his way home from work gives up money in aid of expedience.
Exiting through the back of the store into the adjacent office space on his way to the street, he passes the elevators and spots a plastic card on the carpet – back side up – signature visible, a bank card; likely spilled from a pocket or purse by some idiot, too disorganized to keep their personal belongings safe.
He examines the card, both sides —recognizes the logo. It’s from the Credit Union down the street —so, somebody local, and likely a worker from the offices above. He turns to check for the security guard.
Normally it’s the friendly guy, the one that always waves and says ‘goodnight’. This is a different animal, unkempt; the hair is too long for security and the shirt is open, no tie. He glances down toward the shoes to check for shine. Sure enough, runners. Not even a nod to propriety or uniform.
Intent on trying, he approaches the guard.
‘Hey, hello – this was on the ground – on the carpet by the elevators – it’s probably just been dropped —you can’t miss it on the floor.‘
The guard reaches tentatively, takes the card and looks at both sides, then stares back dimly, no acknowledgment, no reaction.
…Jesus, do I have to give you instructions…
‘You should keep it at your desk in case someone asks for it.’
‘Someone might have lost it…’
‘Well, I’ll leave it with you. Goodnight.’
Not a word in response.
This twat will sit for a moment at his desk; decide the process or the necessary actions are too complex, unable to imagine a series of logical, helpful steps he will just cut it up and throw the damned thing in the garbage. His off-shift in the morning —the one who’s always on time and does things well will get inquiries and won’t know anything about it.
This fucking world is falling apart. Whatever, it’s not my problem.
The street from the grocery store to his apartment is lined with windows and mannequins and red brick sidewalks with iron-grated holes for trees that struggle all day against the shadows of buildings. The walk-light at the pedestrian crossing is a hundred yards away and he is already calculating how many cars will ignore its flashing yellow when he activates it.
She is approaching from down the block —there is a yoga mat strung from her left shoulder, her coat disheveled, mixing fabric with the strap and wrestling against it. She turns, stumbles, turns again and all the while rifles through her pockets with one hand then the other. She lifts her purse from her side and digs in —trips on a tilted brick and staggers left. She is a mousy thing —with thin, dirty blond hair pasted to her head. Worry is painted at her brow. As she closes the distance between them he can see her eyes are wet.
He recalls the guard, the dolt, sees the woman —the injured. All of this humanity – all of this tragedy – the weight of today\’s news and the idiots of this long day, strung on a tight-wire from dawn to sleep – and no respite from the intensity of their scraping against his life. All of them and all of it, impinging on his happiness.
And he thinks. He watches her hands and he thinks again of the guard and when she’s just a few feet ahead of him he stops, looks at her defeated gait and her pallid skin.
“Are you searching your pockets for a bank card? I just found one on the carpet outside the elevators in the Art Block.”
Her eyes flash from her purse to meet his. She chokes back, flashes surprise, and stops. The face relaxes and then her brows sweep up at the inside and her mouth widens to a huge smile.
“Oh my. Oh. Thank you!”
“I left it at the security desk. The Credit Union – right?”
“Yes. Oh my God. Thank you so much. How did you…?”
“You look like you lost something. I just found something. I put them together. It’s in there,” he gestures toward the entrance.
“I can’t thank you enough.”
“It’s all good.”
He places the evenings groceries on the counter, his keys and sunglasses in their place on the bookshelf and selects a play-list from his iPad. The west window in his apartment faces the Yoga center, and if things worked out for the girl she should be making her way across the street right about now.
He gazes out the window over his balcony just in time to see her walking, relaxed and comfortable to the door of the adjacent building. Watches as she enters and disappears into the shadows.
The flowers in his planters are showing early spring growth. Flashing brilliant colored blossoms in meticulously groomed soil.
‘Who’d have thought that idiot would do something right.’