Valentine’s Day will be here before you know it.
Almost certainly before Joe knows it.
I was hurrying to get out of this hideous cold. My mind was on many things, one of which was what to get for Valentine’s Day, when I collided with Joe.
Joe’s not his real name. I don’t know his real name.
But it became obvious that Joe wasn’t thinking about Valentine’s Day.
What he wanted was more earth-bound. What he wanted was for me to give him some spare change.
That’s what he asked for — spare change.
Other passersby apparently didn’t have change to spare (and it was brutally cold) because they didn’t give him any.
Joe probably had a story to tell. He’s a human being, so he must have a story. But we didn’t want to hear it. It was so very cold and the wind was like a handful of razor blades. We — I — just wanted to get out of the weather.
Besides, Joe looked dirty. And aren’t people like him supposed to be mentally ill, maybe dangerous?
I gave him some money and asked him how was he doing as I tried to bustle by.
Yes, it was a stupid question, I grant you, since one glance told me he wasn’t doing too well at all.
“OK,’’ he said back to me.
“Thanks,’’ he added, for the money.
I didn’t say anything, other than: “You’re welcome.”
To talk more seemed like an impertinence. He didn’t pry into my life. Why should I pry into his?
And, to be honest, I didn’t want him to think I was taking an interest and follow me.
I shuffled on, head to the wind. I looked back. Some other guy gave Joe money.
Did I emotionalize this brief encounter? Load it with significance or pathos it didn’t have?
Would later that day Joe dash around the corner and hop into a Lexus, drive off to his lakefront condo, there to laugh at the bleeding heart suckers he ripped off that day?
Or, maybe when he could stand the biting cold and snarling wind no longer he tried to find a place to stay for the night.
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, there are just under a million people in the United States homeless each night.
A lot of those people are nobody’s Valentine.