You ride up the Metro escalator and pause at the cavernous exit. By the crippled man in a Redskins cap, selling flowers as he does every night, from a cardboard box filled with tiny bouquets.
Tonight seems especially bright, auras around the street lamps and headlights. You stand in the noise and exhaust fumes, swaying slightly, your hands in the pockets of your Burberry. Those Chivas rocks in a plush booth this afternoon, huddled with Amy from upstairs, her hair smelling of lavender, looking at you like nobody has in years. Both of you strangers, really, stuck in an anonymous office of bureaucrats, spouses hidden away in the suburbs.
Your wife is cooking dinner out there right now. So you give the crippled man his ten dollars and he hands you a small bouquet. You shuffle toward the bus stop, but standing in line, you think the flowers seem puny, not nearly enough. Still, there’s time and you walk back for more. The man’s gone, but his box of flowers sits alone on the sidewalk. You pick up another bunch, add it to the first. There, much better. Moving carefully, slowly, you walk back toward the line.
Someone grabs you, spins you around. You take a step sideways to catch your balance. It’s the crippled man, yelling into your face, cursing, calling you a thief, his breath phlegmy and rancid. “You think I don’t have people watching out for me?” he screams, spraying you with spittle.
You look at his enraged face, then down at the flowers in your hand. Abruptly, you hand the bouquet to the man, turn around, walk away. He shouts after you and something soft hits you in the back. You keep walking. People stand aside, make room. You get on the bus. You sit alone.