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Another day, another dollar 0

Yo Shaw,

I was riding the metro, on my way to my first lesson, when a gray-whiskered, smoke-aged beggar entered the car. He was carrying a plastic shopping bag filled with what seemed to be soiled clothes. Each of the passengers refused or ignored him when he requested money and when he got to me I asked if he’d like something to eat. He nodded and I reached into my pack, pulled out a box of peanuts, and handed it over. He turned the box over and over in his hands, as if trying to understand what it was or what to do with it. I thought he was going to hand it back but then he opened his plastic bag and dropped the box inside.

Then he looked up at me glaring, and snarled, “You dirty gypsy!”

I had showered an hour earlier and, because I had a lesson with a minister of the Italian government, had worn a pair of my dressiest slacks and an elegant sweater. Perhaps he was angry because I’d given him something to eat instead of money.

“I look like a gypsy?” I asked.

“You stink and you’re disgusting!”

I was speechless, and definitely didn’t stink.

“Where you from?” he asked.

“America,” I said.

“South America?”

I opened my mouth to correct him but before I could speak, he took a step closer and shouted, “Then what’re you doing here?”

I was on guard now. Not so much against a physical attack as… well, what if he spat in my face or whipped out his wiener and tried to hose me down? In fact, he started fumbling with his belt and pulling up his shirt, mumbling something about the root of his problems. I averted my eyes but then he had his belly exposed and, though it was difficult to make out, I saw a scar. It must have been years, perhaps decades, since he’d had his appendix removed.

“That’s me and my problem,” he said, so close I could see the plaque bridging his brown and yellowed teeth. “But you and your nomadic way of life is everybody’s problem. Do you have children?” he asked.

“No,” I said.


It might have been my imagination but the other passengers seemed to be looking at me as if I should have been insulted. On the contrary, I was entertained. This was much more fun than reading my book. I could always read about fictional characters. But this guy was the real McCoy.

He sized me up and down and then walked away swinging his bag. That was that. I opened my book, continued reading and, immediately, I noticed a significant amount of blood staining the page. My pinky was bleeding. Though I’d cut my cuticles before leaving the apartment and had taken a bit too much from the left pinky, I’d have never imagined it was still bleeding. There were tissues in my left pocket but how could I get one out without staining my pants?

Holding my book in my left hand, I reached around with my right, pulling on the pocket and maneuvering my pants in a way that allowed me to get my hand in there. People were staring again, maybe wondering why my finger was bleeding or, if they hadn’t noticed the blood, marveling about why I would reach into my left pocket with my right hand. Anyway, I got a tissue out and used it to wipe the blood off. The wound continued to bleed, however, so I kept the tissue pressed against it and rode that way to work.

Another day, another dollar.


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