After work, I drove to pick up our Monday night pizza for $7.99 and some dog food. The traffic was predictably heavy as I approached an intersection and saw a tall, black man with a beard and a knit hat, holding a cardboard sign that said, HOMELESS VETERAN. Something about him looked safe. I don’t know what. Maybe it’s because my dad is a veteran. Maybe it was because he looked to be about my age, like he could have gone to high school with me.
I realized I had an extra Nature Valley protein bar in my purse. He’d have to cross one lane of stopped traffic, waiting at the light with me, to get it. But I got the protein bar out of my purse and “rolled” down my window. When he saw me, I held the bar out to him.
“Do you want a protein bar?”
“Yes, ma’am. I’ll take anything!” he said. “Thank you!”
As the light changed and I drove on, I realized that I should have asked him if he knew about the Rescue Mission, downtown. It would be a cold night. I should have at least mentioned it.
I got the dog food, and picked up a Vitamin Water, as I developed a plan to go back the same way. If he was still there, I would give him the water and tell him about the Mission.
When I got to the check out, the cashier kept looking at the pizza box. Then he told me they’d forgotten to put a price sticker on my pizza.
“It’s Monday, so it’s $7.99, I said.”
“Well, today it’s zero.”
“What, you mean its free?”
“Yeah. We want you to come back.” He said.
I looked carefully for the homeless veteran as I turned at the intersection where I’d seen him last. He wasn’t there. I looked for him most of the way home. What if he was walking the same way I was going? Should I offer him a ride to the Mission? Would that be crazy?
As it turned out, I didn’t see him.
I hope he has a warm place to stay.
I keep thinking about him.
My slice of pizza seems like a feast.
It’s not awful that our gas furnace is on the fritz and we have to use space heaters.
We will be plenty warm in our little old house.