Give Me My Change

For the first time since late last month (before that, March), I went into the city. July’s trip was to harangue my eyebrows and other unruly hairs at my favorite threading and waxing spot in the Flatiron District. This trip was to check the PO Box for an organization for which I’m on the executive board.

It was a beautiful day and I was in no rush to return to the solitude of my apartment. It was actually my second outing of the day, after attending a wedding at the Black Lives Matter street mural on Fulton St. earlier that morning. Midtown east isn’t a far walk to Times Square. Loving Times Square is one of the many things barring me from becoming a real New Yorker. Natives abhor the tourist spot. Me being forever in tourist mode, love it. 11 years in, I’m still in awe that I live where lots of movies and shows have been filmed and settings for books.

I set out in 80+-degree weather to walk through the place that elicits childlike wonder in me. As I walked down 42nd, the first set of pictures I took were of the Times Square New Year Ball, which changed colors from blue to white, multi, red and green. I walked by Pandora, H&M, a huge billboard for HBO’s Lovecraft Country. I snapped a few other pictures before crossing the intersection of 42nd and 7th.

My iPod, on its last legs, can’t work unless it’s plugged in. Even though I had earbuds, I preferred not to play music on my phone as I was already draining the battery with all my picture taking. As such, I could not pretend not to hear when an older man pleaded with me.

“Please, Miss, could you help me out with some food?”

My soft spot is when asked for food vs money. I need to earn brownie points for heaven (if it exists), so I agreed to buy overpriced shish kebabs at the cart where he was already standing. I encouraged him to order water and ordered one for myself.

As I was paying, Man #2 walked up to my right and also asked for food.

Man #1, on my left: Hey, man, the lady is already buying me food.

As stated before, I need brownie points if I ever hope to be reunited with my mother.  It was a pay week, I was feeling good, so I agreed to buy Man #2 a sausage. My total shot up to $31!

Man #2: I hate to ask, but I’m from Alabama. Could you spare some money so I can catch the train?

Me: I–

Man #1: Hey, man, stop being disrespectful, she’s already buying us food.

Man #2: Was I talking to you?

Man #1: It doesn’t matter. I’m talking to you. (He walked around me and raised his CANE at Man #2.)

They dared each other to make the first move.

I, dehydrated and delusional, stepped in between the men, raised my arms and screamed for them to calm down and back up. Meanwhile, people walked around us. Because of the pandemic, there were only a fraction of people that usually crowd Times Square, but there were enough eyes.

Man #2 deftly removed his backpack and pulled out a linty, black sock stuffed with an object(s).

I ran back to the vendor and told him to give me my change so I could leave. He handed me the mother f’n sausage. For whatever reason, I accepted it. 

Man #2 refused it from me because he wanted mustard. He actually stepped away from me and put his arms by his side. Along came Man #1, again, with outstretched cane.

I shoved the sausage into Man #2’s hand, then yelled at the vendor, again, to give me my change. He did, and Man #1, still being protective urged me to put it away before resuming to shake his cane at Man #2. As quickly as I could manage in my sliders, maxi dress and suffocating face mask, I run-walked to the subway.

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