He Tried To Hide His Tears When His Wife Joined For Lunch.
Story by Roger Dean Kiser (Author)
I was very excited because I had just received a FedEx package containing the front cover for my first and only book, which, hopefully, will be coming out soon.
I telephoned my wife and then I drove to the pizza parlor where she was working so we could eat lunch together. When I arrived I sat down in one of the far back booths with my clear, bubbly, fat free, fizzling, no-caffeine Sprite, and waited for her to finish the few tables she had left, before we could eat.
As I sat there I was looking out the large plate glass window and I saw a man about thirty years old walking across the parking lot carrying a pizza box, which he had just purchased from one of the mini markets across the street. He walked into the restaurant, went directly to the counter where he got a large cup of water and then he walked to the back of the restaurant, where I was sitting, and sat down at the table across from me, to my right.
I watched him as he laid his large dirty paper bag of clothing down on the floor and then tried to straighten out the wrinkles so that it did not look so bad. Then he took a napkin from the metal container, unfolded it, and wiped his dirty hands. Then he took another napkin, placed it on the table and neatly laid his silverware onto it. The fork to the right side of the napkin and then the spoon and knife on the other side.
There was no doubt that this man was homeless and in need a bath, in the worst way. He had not shaved for several months. His hair was extremely greasy, as was his skin, and his clothing would have caught fire from the stench if someone had lit a match near him.
He reached over and slid the one small slice of pizza out of the box and laid it onto the napkin and very slowly, very carefully, he began to eat the small meal, taking very little bites.
I sat there watching him out of the corner of my eye and was wondering how someone could buy a slice of pizza from one store and then have the nerve to bring it into another restaurant and sit there and eat it.
The dingy fellow finally finished his meal and he did something that I will never forget.
He picked up the box, turned it on its corner and slid the few remaining pieces into one far corner of the box. Then he wet his index finger and began to try and pick up the small crumbs that were left in the corner of the box. I could see his eyes roll back into their sockets, as he closed his eyes and bent his head backwards, trying to really enjoy a few tasty crumbs that were left from that one small slice of pizza.
The muscles in my neck and jaw began to tighten and my eyes began to burn and water up.
Oh, how much it hurt me to look across that dining room and once again see myself as I was thirty-eight years ago. To be cold, and hungry. To be dirty and have no one to help me, or no one to care about me. No one to love me and no one to care if I lived or died. No place to go to wash my filthy clothes, which had become hard, coarse and rough against my skin. No soft warm place to sleep and no place on this earth to be safe, when darkness fell. How much it hurt me to see myself again at thirteen years of age.
He tilted that small box to the side just as I had done many, many times when I lived on the street. Eating every day from garbage cans and dumpsters and bathing in the gas station washrooms. I will never forget what that extra special moment felt like. Just making sure that I savored every last little morsel of food, even if it was from a garbage can, so that I could sustain my life for just one more lonely day on the face of this earth.
My wife finally came and sat down across from me. I immediately turned my head to the side, got up from the booth and I walked to the waitress station to put my plate onto the plastic kitchen cart, so that she would not see the tears in my eyes. I did not know what to do and I didn’t know what to say. I felt so lost and so helpless. I did not even know how to act.
Most of my past life had always been just like what I was now seeing in front of my very own eyes. Identical to that young man who was now sitting right in front of me, and it all came back to me in a flash.
I grunted and coughed a bit, trying to clear my throat and get myself back together.
Just then my wife was standing behind me and she said, “Roger, go get that gentleman some pizza”.
I did not say a word but walked directly to the counter and got four large slices of pizza and some dessert. Then I walked back towards the man. I sat the pizza down on the corner of the table in front of him and said, “We will be throwing this away very shortly. I thought you might like to have a few pieces”.
He never looked up at all, but looked directly down at the table. I did not stop at all but walked around behind him so I could return to the waitress station.
As I passed him, I reached out and touched him on the back, just one time, very softly with my hand, just as I wished someone would have done for me thirty some years ago.
I hope that man knows that someone, someplace, cares about him as a human being. I don’t know for sure what all those beatings did to me in that orphanage and that reform school. But I am so thankful that this “little orphan bastard” never forgot what it feels like to be down, out, dirty and hungry.
To know more about the Author: The Books and Stories of Roger Dean Kiser