I poured two shots of Irish and handed one to my neighbor. It was quarter after seven on a Friday, and the sun was dipping low. I chased it with a handful of pills and a cocktail of aminos. Token gestures for a lost cause.
It was a mild evening, and full of promise. We strolled down the block. There was light foot traffic from the early dinner crowd, and fewer cars to dodge with my in-discriminant jaywalking.
I saw him on the corner, by the coffee shop. His ball cap sat low on his head, pulled over a mess of long hair that tangled with his beard. He didn’t look around, and said nothing to his passers-by.
He sat in his wheelchair and cradled a coffee cup between his amputations.
My heart sank. I walked across the intersection and pretended not to notice. I stopped on the far sidewalk and turned.
“Fuck. That don’t sit right.”
My neighbor looked at me, confused.
“What are you thinking?” he asked.
“Dude needs a beer.”
I pointed myself at the nearest corner store and hustled back across the intersection diagonally, against the light. My friend followed me in, and I made a quick lap of the coolers. Soda. Iced tea. Energy drinks.
“What the fuck?” I muttered.
“No beer?” he replied.
“Is that even legal?”
“There’s no open containers here, man.”
“I give a fuck . . . “
I stepped out onto the sidewalk and surveyed my next option – another mini mart on the next street over. I hustled across another intersection. I saw a Bud Light neon in the window and yanked hard on the door before I realized that the lights were off.
They closed at 5 pm.
“I’m sure there will be other homeless people to buy beer for,” my neighbor said, attempting to console me.
“What are you, hourly?” I sneered. He laughed. “We aren’t exactly on a fuckin’ schedule . . . “
“You alright? You got the crazy eye . . . “
I stepped it out and headed for the grocery store. We strolled the beer aisle, debating what Dude might want to drink. Can, we decided, not bottle. I pulled a star spangled Budweiser tall-boy off the rack.
I paid and we headed back to the intersection by the coffee shop. Dude was still sitting there, not looking at anyone. I ignored the knot in my stomach and crossed the street, moving purposefully toward him.
He looked up at me. He was younger than I’d realized.
“Hey man, I don’t have any cash on me, but this one’s on me.”
I handed him the brown paper sack. It was wrapped in a plastic bag, still freezer cold. His eyes lit up.
“Aww . . . Thanks, man!”
He stuck his hand out to shake mine. I gripped it firmly and smiled.
“Yeah, brother. You have a good evening.”
I waved farewell and shuffled back across the street. My neighbor and I headed for the bar. We made it another block.
“Feel better now?” he asked me.
“Not really . . . ” I muttered.
My mouth was dry. I kept walking.