I woke up on a bench
I woke up on a bench in a park. My head hurt and my clothes were muddy in spots - a splash of mud on my elbow, another one on my knee. I blinked and stood up, looking around. The sun was low, maybe it was late afternoon or early evening. The park was empty except for two toddlers being steered away from me by their mother who made me feel ashamed. I looked down. I was clothed appropriately, so that wasn’t it. I felt my hair. Neat and tidy. My mouth tasted like acid.
Finding $18 and some coins in my pants pocket, I realized I was hungry so I headed away from the bench. West, I guessed, but not sure. I crossed an abandoned baseball field, stepped around the wire mesh garbage can with hot dog wrappers and fountain soda cups and straws. I climbed a daffodil filled hill and found myself on a street. Two or three cars passed - husbands on their way home from work. I looked left. A movie theater. Lights on. A couple walking in, holding hands and laughing. I looked right. A few brownstones and three bistro tables on the sidewalk on the corner. I headed to the right.
A man walked toward me. I braced myself, trying to recognize him. He didn’t look familiar and walked past. A teenager walking a dog turned the corner toward me. The dog sniffed at my sneakers but the kid pulled him away and didn’t make eye contact. When I got to the corner deli, I smelled pastrami and macaroni salad and coffee. My stomach growled and I pushed open the door.
The wrinkled man at the counter wore a white apron, stained, and a white hat, crooked. He smiled and patted the arm of the customer at the counter. She was old, maybe 80, and stooped. She wore a long brown fur coat and carried an expensive bag. “Thank you, Jerry,” she told him as she stepped away from the counter smiling.
Jerry looked at me, up and down, clearly with distaste. “You’re late,” he said. “Go clean yourself up.” He nodded his head toward a door behind the counter and grunted. “I’ll make you a sandwich.”