I need more coffee.
I’m only about a twenty-minute run from Grind, but it’s the opposite direction from my apartment than the park . . .
Coffee is worth it. You can get coffee on nearly every corner here, but not good coffee—ugh, deli coffee is the worst—and I need to check if next week’s schedule is up, anyway. I reverse course to run back toward the coffee shop. I pass the woman carrying the shopping bags again and I watch as one of the sacks slips from her hand. I rush over to help, but I’m not fast enough and the brown bag tears and cans of food roll onto the sidewalk. She looks so frustrated that it wouldn’t be a surprise if she screamed at me just for helping her.
I grab a can of chicken soup before it rolls into the street. Another bag tears and she curses as her vegetables tumble to the ground. Her dark hair is covering her face, but I would guess she’s about thirty. She’s wearing a loose dress and has a slight bump underneath. She may be pregnant—or she may not be: I know better than to ask.
Two teenage boys cross the street and come our way. For just a moment, I believe they may actually help us.
Nope. While we’re scrambling to clean up her grocery disaster, they don’t bat an eye in our direction. No neighborly assistance; they just pick up their boots and are nice enough to step over a box of rice directly in their path. Sometimes not crushing things in your way is as much kindness as you can get in this city.
“Do you live far from here?” I ask the woman.
She looks up from the sidewalk and shakes her head. “No, just one more block.” She pushes her deep brown hands against her hair and groans in frustration.
I point to the pile of groceries from the two bags. “Hmm, okay. Let’s get these under control.” Seeing as I don’t have any extra bags hanging around in my pockets, I pull my sweatshirt over my head and start scooping the groceries into it. They may not all fit, but it’s worth a try.
“Thanks,” she offers, slightly out of breath. She moves to bend to help me, but I stop her.
A car honks, then another. I barely have one foot in the street, but they honk anyway. The best thing about living in Brooklyn is the lack of honking (usually). Manhattan is a chaotic, angry little island, but I could possibly see myself settling down in Brooklyn, teaching at a public school, and raising a family. My daydream plans usually include other cities, quieter ones. Still, I’ve got to get a girl to go on a date with me first, so this may take a while. Let’s just say it’s my five-year plan . . .
Okay, ten-year plan.
I push a bottle of cooking oil into the crook of my arm. “I’ve got it. It’s fine,” I tell the woman.
I look into her hooded eyes. She’s watching me now, skeptical and unsure whether I’m sketchy or okay. You can trust me, I want to promise her. However, chances are that if I say that, it will only raise her suspicion levels. The wind picks up, instantly bringing the temperature down a bit. I move faster, and once I get most of the groceries inside my sweatshirt, I tie the sleeves together, creating my best version of a bag. I toss in a box of crackers and a pack of lunch meat.
I stand to my feet and place the sweatshirt bag in her hands. Her eyes soften.
“You can keep the hoodie, I have a ton of them,” I say.
“I bet you’ll make a lady very happy one day, young man,” she says to me with a smile. She gathers up the remainder of her grocery bags that didn’t break, readjusts the sweatshirt in her arms, and starts to walk away. I’m flattered by her compliment but I quickly wonder why she assumed that I’m single. Do I ooze desperation and loneliness?
“Do you need help? I can help you get them home?” I offer, sure to pose my tone as an offer, not a demand. It’s going to take her a while to get home, carrying those bags like that.
She shakes her head and looks past me, in the direction she was headed. “It’s just right here. I’ve got it.”
I hear a tinge of an accent in her voice, but I can’t make it out. As she walks away, it dawns on me that she actually doesn’t need my help—she’s carrying the bags and the sweatshirt full of groceries just fine. I’m guessing this is supposed to be some metaphor sent by the cosmic forces to show me that I don’t have to help everyone, like Augustus and his cigarettes in The Fault in Our Stars. Well, not exactly the same, but still. He obviously had it worse than me, poor guy.
I let the woman go on her own and continue my journey south, deeper into Bushwick. I love the neighborhood I live in. It’s close to the cool things in Williamsburg, but with much lower rent. Definitely our rent is already high—it shocked the heck out of me when I moved here—and is