Gerard's work day hungover. He meets a friendly stranger.
“Sir?” A weak voice behind him was barely heard, as a cold November wind had blown past just as it left the owner’s mouth. Gerard turned around to see the homeless man holding the bill out to Gerard. The man spoke again,
“You dropped your money.” Gerard, confused, stuttered,
“N-no. That was… for you.” The man extended his arm out a little more,
“Thank you, sir, but I don’t need it.” Gerard stood there in silence uncertain of what to do. Another wind flew through Gerard’s hair. The wind made the dollar bill twitch in the man’s hand. Finally, Gerard walked over, heels clicking loudly on the cement, and took the dollar back.
“Have a nice day,” the man said. It was clear that the man had good intentions, but his expression and movement were different. They communicated no emotion. Though Gerard tried to shrug the thoughts about the man out of his mind, he couldn’t help but wonder how peculiar the man was, how he seemed so familiar, but a stranger at the same time. The way he acted reminded him of someone. Who? Gerard thought hard, but was forced to forget about it when he was nearly hit by a car while absent mindedly crossing the street.
Gerard’s hands itched to draw. It was only 1:00 in the after and he had completed more work than he had in a whole week before. Fleischman had approached him once that day, praising Gerard, surprised that the once miserable, lazy person had suddenly become hardworking and determined. Seeing that Gerard was working hard, Fleischman was in a good mood. A lot of his stress came from the fact that his employees did not work hard enough, but now that Gerard had completed more than the rest of the accountants did, he was beginning to feel generous. He approached. He cleared his throat as he always did to get people’s attention. Expecting Gerard to turn around, he was surprised when Gerard suddenly lurched forward and made choking noises, followed by a fit of coughing. Finally, Gerard turned around, his hand holding a mug dripping with coffee. Fleischman tried to hold back a laugh.
“… Sorry… you just surprised me while I was drinking…” Gerard said sheepishly, face growing red. Fleischman chuckled,
“Sorry, I just wanted to tell you what a great job you’ve been doing today and that I -- Are you alright?” Fleischman saw that Gerard had doubled over and was moaning softly. Gerard said weakly,
“Yeah, I just-- don’t feel very well.” His face had now turned pale and the dark circles under his eyes appeared more prominent. Fleischman said, concerned,
“I was going to let you go home early for working so hard today anyway… so you can go.” Gerard thanked him and slowly assembled his belongings. His head felt like it was being beaten by a hammer. He finally pulled his coat on and dragged himself to the door. It was sill cold from the wind, but the sun was shining bright. A little too bright, it seemed to Gerard. Hangovers would be the only thing he wouldn't miss when he gave up alcohol. He stumbled down the street, feet dragging, until he felt his stomach churn. He tripped over himself as he hurried over to the nearest garbage can. He leaned over it and vomited. The strong scent of bile nauseated him even more. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and walked back down the sidewalk. He almost didn’t notice when someone said,
“You alright, sir?” Gerard looked down beside him to see the very same homeless man he had tried to give the money to earlier that day. Gerard stared at him. The man looked back at him with his piercing brown eyes. Gerard then realized how thin the man was. The worn, short-sleeved t-shirt he wore hung loosely on his skinny frame. His knees stuck out of the holes in his old jeans. He had relatively straight brown hair and wore a pair of old glasses, the frames falling apart and barely stayed together with duct tape. His nose was perfect straight and pointed and his lips were pursed. Suddenly, Gerard realized who this man reminded him of: his mother. He hadn’t thought about his mother in years. When Gerard was 5, his parents had died in a car accident. He was cared for by his grandparents. Memories came flooding back. He remembered how serious and cold his mother was. She rarely ever smiled and showed no affection. Just like this man.
“Yeah… I’m okay. Just a little hungover.”
“Here. Hydrate,” the man handed over an unopened bottle of Poland Spring water. Gerard become conscious that the man had no luggage. He only had a towel to sit on and a neatly folded winter jacket right next to him. Other than these things, he had nothing.
“No, that’s okay. You need it. I’m almost home anyway.” Gerard said, thanking him sincerely.
“Okay. Take care. Get home safely,” the man said. Gerard stumbled away, thinking over what just happened.