5pm. Dark clouds held the sun hostage before the downpour, but he sat outside in the red chairs with his back arched as he savored his cigar and took long gulps of Evian. He checked his Cartier watch in-between glances of parents filling their phones with pictures of their children mimicking the fearless girl pose.
Knowing the child model was a young Hispanic girl he thought back on his own childhood growing up in Mexico. He arrived in America right at the start of middle school and quickly advanced to the top of his class. Stuyvesant for high school, Stanford for college, and Harvard for his MBA, placed him exactly where he always dreamed of being – the floor of the NY Stock Exchange.
Once he finished his cigar he took out the turkey sandwich and bag of chips he bought from the deli he ordered from every day. It was the lunch he never got to eat. He’d only taken two bites of his sandwich and eaten only a few potato chips when, he was hit by an aroma that he knew could only belong to a homeless person.
“Do you have a dollar you can spare?” It was a white man not much older than him.
“I don’t have any cash.” It was a lie. He always carried a few bucks because cash often came in handy, but he refused to give money to any of the homeless people Downtown. If he could make something of himself, he felt they should be able to as well. There were so many more opportunities to be successful in America than in Mexico. There were no reasons people in America should be homeless and begging for money unless they were drug addicts or alcoholics and he refused to support anyone’s habit.
“Could I have the rest of your potato chips? I haven’t eaten all day.” The homeless man locked eyes with the stockbroker in search of some semblance of pity.
“Neither have I.” The stockbroker did not avert his gaze. He could see the white man’s skin begin to turn a bright red as his eyes widened. He heard the sound of phlegm rising to the surface and in an instant he felt splatters of saliva on his face as the man spit on his sandwich.
“Spic!” The man turned and walked away slowly daring the stockbroker to come after him.
The stockbroker took the napkins out of his bag and wiped the splatter from his face. He wrapped up his soiled sandwich and chips and threw them in the bag as he watched the homeless man approach a young black woman and ask her for a dollar. Perhaps she saw what had happened to him. He couldn’t be sure, but she pulled out her wallet and gave him a dollar. The homeless man kept walking as if he never did what he did, and it wouldn’t matter if he did it again.
The stockbroker threw his tainted food in the trash and began his fifteen-minute walk home. As he walked he caught glimpses of his reflection in the Hermes window. His reflection began to speak to him.
Reflection – Is it worth it?
Stockbroker – What?
Reflection – The price.
Stockbroker – Of what?
Reflection – The price of life here?
Stockbroker – This is home.
Reflection – Even today?
Stockbroker – Nevertheless.
The next morning when his alarm went off at 5am he decided to hit snooze and skip his morning run. With an extra hour of sleep, he began his walk to work. He decided to walk along the pier and take in the breeze coming in from the river. Work was uneventful. The markets were flat. As soon as he stepped outside he noticed the man who had spit on him sitting on a concrete bench not too far away from the fearless girl. He stopped and stared at him from a distance but he could tell the man did not recognize him. He thought maybe he had been too harsh by not giving when he had enough to spare. He contemplated going over to him and giving him some money or buying him something to eat. Looking at the man in a new day’s light he could see the man in spite of whatever was afflicting him. They were not so different – approximately the same age, same height, same build. Only money and success separated them. He walked a few steps in the man’s direction and stopped as the homeless man got up and walked away without stopping anyone to ask for a handout. He watched him fade away into the tourists and walked to Hale & Harty to pick up a salad for dinner.