Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Samuel's Lunch

I don't know what his name was. Let's call him Samuel.

I was sitting outside the grocery store with the dog on a leash beneath my chair. It was very hot, and we found a spot in the shade of a red umbrella — one of several sticking out of the patio tables on the sidewalk.

People came and went. There were women carrying reusable grocery bags. There were families with their kids in tow. There was a man on crutches who evidently only had to get a single container of hummus (or some such) from the deli counter. And there was Samuel.

He walked up to the table in front of us with a determined look on his face. He set his backpack in a chair and pulled a chair out for himself, moving both of them so that they were in the shade.

Samuel sat down and unzipped his pack, pulling out a half-loaf of sliced wheat bread and a container of mayonnaise and a tin of tuna fish and a can opener and some sort of cloth. He set these things on the table before him with slow deliberation, and he arrayed six slices of bread on the cloth.

He opened the tuna and walked over to a garbage can, where he stood for some time letting the water drip out of the can, making sure that he had left no tuna on the lid before he threw it away. As he slowly walked back, I saw him muttering — not audibly, just barely moving his lips in sync with some thoughts that were clearly on his mind.

Back at his table, Samuel spread some mayonnaise onto each slice of bread with a knife that also must have come from his pack, and he mixed some more mayo into the tuna fish, wiping the knife on the corner of one of the slices of bread when he was done and then wiping it again, polishing it almost, with a napkin that also came out of his pack. Then he stowed his knife, the remaining bread and the can opener back into his pack and put one slice onto the other to make three tuna fish sandwiches.

When Trudy came out, he had just begun eating his first one. She looked at me looking at him.

"Do you have some change?" I asked her. She dug four quarters out of her purse.

"Here," I said, handing her the leash. "I'll be right back." And I walked down the sidewalk to the main entrance of the grocery store to the table just inside to the right where you can get some fruit for your kids for a small donation of change.

I got an apple and a small orange and walked back. When I came up to Samuel, I slowed down. He was eating and didn't seem to notice me.

"Would you like some fruit with your lunch?" I asked, barely touching him on the arm and showing him the apple and orange. He shook his head gently.

"Are you sure?" I asked.

"No thank you," he said.

"Ok," I said, and I walked back to Trudy.

She took the dog. I put the fruit into one of the bags in the grocery cart. And we went home.

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