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  • I was early. I didn't want to go back up to the office and I didn't want to stand anymore, so I found a spot on the low wall to wait. Across the plaza, closer to the metro entrance, right next to the sign, really, I noticed a man who was really a boy who seemed out of place in the dreary afternoon buzz of food trucks, office workers, and tourists.

    The sky started to spit miserable, drizzerable little drops, and I pushed my hair back, out of my face. I shrugged deeper into my jacket, turned off my iPod, and put the phone in my pocket, and I watched the man who was really a boy shift from foot to foot. He held out a cup. His mouth moved slowly but stopped almost before he had started. He dropped the cup to his side and looked down as people walked past.

    I didn't want to watch. I didn't want to meet his eyes. I didn't want him to ask, but I couldn't stop.

    He shifted again and brought up the cup hand, holding it out, forcing his mouth to move once or twice before giving up. His shoulders slumped as he hiked up the too big and too dirty jeans. The move accentuated his gaunt frame and bared his ankles, the tops of worn shoes. He looked so hungry, so scared, and so lost.

    I couldn't stop.

    I pulled the phone from my pocket and looked for a message. I looked at the time. I didn't have time. I couldn't offer to buy the boy lunch without the need to explain something I didn't understand.

    Thoughts raced through my mind as I pulled out my wallet, pushed aside ones, and pulled out a five. I put the wallet back and folded the bill into my palm. It would have to do. I looked at the phone again, put it away, and stood up.

    He still didn't see me, the boy. He didn't seem to see anyone. He shivered in the light rain in his short sleeves and bare ankles.

    Walking quickly, so quickly, I crossed the plaza and pushed the money into his empty cup.

    The boy looked at me. He looked at my hand, the bill, and the cup. He looked at my face and worked his mouth without making noise. I looked into his eyes and nodded before turning back toward the wall.

    "Thank you," he stammered softly.

    I heard him behind me as I walked and he followed.

    "Thank you. Thank you. Thankyouthankyouthankyou."

    I looked into his eyes and nodded again with a slight smile.

    He wandered past and continued inside, toward the restaurant with cheap bread, toward the convenience store. I reclaimed my seat, praying he would use the money to eat, but I didn't do it for him.

    I mean, I did, but not completely. I saw myself when I looked at him. I recognized his hunger, his fear, the feeling of invisibility. I remembered the way that it felt when I woke on the sidewalk and wondered if maybe I hadn't actually died. I wondered if maybe that wasn't the thing that came next, invisibility, suffering, because nobody saw me. Nobody stopped. Nobody helped.

    I needed him to know that he was real. He was solid, and I saw him.

    I didn't know what came before he found his spot by the sign. I didn't know what would come next, and I was certain that five dollars would not make much of a difference. He just… I just…

    He was real. I needed him to know that. I did it for me.
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