The "L" is moving along towards downtown Chicago on this Good Friday. It is not yet too crowded, only a couple of people are standing. I am looking out the window, reading the graffiti, wondering if the people living by the tracks just get used to the sound of a train going by every few minutes.
At the next stop, a young man gets on. He tells us in a loud and clear voice that he needs our attention. I look up at him. He tells us again, I need your attention. People continue texting or reading. It's just another nut on the train. I look at his face while he tells the silent, mostly disinterested crowd that he needs our help.
I need your help. I know I sound crazy or pathetic, but I'm broke and I'm hungry and I need a bus ticket home. I have nowhere to go. My girlfriend broke up with me, I've got nothing left, and even though my father probably won't let me in the door I'm just a fuck-up in his eyes, and maybe I am, but I've got nowhere else to go.
My eye goes from his face to his left hand. He keeps it in his jacket pocket. He never lets go of whatever it is in his left pocket.
I know most of you don't care, look, most of you won't even look at me, but I'm begging you. I'm at the end. I've got nothing. I'm asking you people for anything. Something to eat, or a little money for bus fare. The ticket is twenty dollars, I've got eighteen and change...
He continues on for a few more sentences, and never takes his hand out of his jacket.
Someone stands up and gives him a sandwich. He takes it and thanks the man. One by one, people get out of their seats and hand him some money. First one, then another and then another. It is choreographed so that only one person is up at a time. There is some crazy holy feeling to this procession. We give our offering, and sit back down. I give him mine and look into his face. He's just a kid. I sit back down in my seat. The next stop is mine. I am one of the sea of people walking up the stairs out into the daylight. He is walking into the daylight too. He has a sandwich and a few dollars.
He sits on the curb and sobs.