It’s Wednesday evening.
I’m on my commute home from work.
Traffic is flowing on I-95 North.
A school of fish gliding down a rapid current.
He drips into consciousness at Exit 5.
There are three words on a piece of tattered cardboard, written with a thick, black, felt pen.
The words are stacked.
My thoughts shift to a Netflix movie. I’m replaying scenes from 13 Conversations About One Thing as I’m chewing up highway. John Turturro: Life of predictability. Fullness of routine.
He stands at the same Exit. Exit 9. My Exit.
There’s a stop light at the end of the long exit ramp.
You can’t avoid him, unless you are at the back of the line in rush hour.
And then you pass him at 15 mph as you negotiate the corner.
White male. 35-40 years old. Clean shaven. Average weight and height. A coat a bit heavy and oversized for the season, but not unusually so. His eyes, those eyes, emit distress.
Addict? Alcohol? Prescription Drugs? Coke? Meth?
Unemployed? Unemployable? Record?
Bad decisions? Bad luck?
He doesn’t give much away.
I reach Exit 9. I’m near the back of the line. The light is Red.
Same scene. I’ve driven by this Man 10 times.
I’m fumbling with my briefcase in the back seat searching for my wallet.
The light turns green.
The traffic begins to move in front of me. I have one hand in the bag in the backseat and the other on the wheel as I move down the exit ramp.
He’s closing in. Same sign. Same jacket. Same gaunt look.
I can’t find my wallet. Damn it! Just get him next time. Let it go. He’ll be here tomorrow.
The gap between my car and the car in front has widened.
The line is growing behind me, with a late model Corvette hugging my bumper.
He’s now 10 yards away.
Still no wallet.
I stop in front of him. I grab my bag from the back seat and sling it into the front.
The Corvette now has two hands on his horn. Others join in. Traffic is backing up onto I-95.
I find my wallet.
I pause. Lower my window.
He approaches the car.
Our eyes connect momentarily, otherwise Silence.
I hand him the Bill.
He looks down at it, grabs it, turns his head and steps back away from the car.
I take one last glance at him, and I pull my car through the intersection.
The Corvette pulls up next to me at the next light.
I lower my window, signaling for him to do the same.
And I pass along my thoughts.
F-ck you A–hole.