They are the losers. Mike pushes and pulls a metal shopping/luggage rack in which he keeps his oxygen bottle and machine. He smiles and begins coughing, rasping and wheezing. I drop back in case he expels a lung or something worse. His face is unshaven and thin, a step shy of being gaunt. A patch over one eye, tubes for air up his nose, teeth broken and missing he sets down his pack of cigarettes and pulls out two well-worn dollar bills. He cracks a lame joke or makes light conversation. He stands at the counter and talks until a line forms behind him. He comes for the coffee and the conversation. He has few friends and obviously longs for the company.
Joan looks good in her matching pants suit, stylish and summer cool. Her brown hair looks good cut short for the season. It is when she gets close that you realize something is wrong. It is difficult to tell if she is in her fifties or seventies. The street must do that to you. She lives from a shopping cart which is so heavy that I would strain to push it even a block. Joan pushes it cross town. She pursues shade in the summer and recyclables for cash.
Joan starts talking and furthers your inkling idea that all isn’t right. She says that the next storm will roil up water under the mountain and cause the rocks to roll down on the city. Perhaps she was told that by one of the mystical homeless or the birds that talk to each other and allow her to listen in. She tells me all these things as she rambles on waiting for her bagel and small coffee. The line forms behind her as she routs her purse. She seems to appreciate the audience as well as the cool air-conditioned building.
It is difficult to grasp those dollar bills not knowing who or what has touched them. Their owners untouched as well, dark and dirty from lack of shower and exposure.
Time was not so long ago that they scared me. I disliked serving them prejudiced against and certain their plight was deserved. God has wrought growth and delight now to listen to their thoughts though illogical and nonlucid. Losers and lost they populate our world. Perhaps their decisions deserve such outcomes. I know not enough to judge. So like all my customers I offer them coffee, conversation, and a place where they are known by name.