It all starts the same way.
Alarm goes off at 5:30 am. So begins that replay button, stuck on Monday to Friday, only pausing for a brief blink of an eye called the weekend. The cold shower is the only rush of the day then organic yogurt with gluten-free granola and berries grown by Buddhist monks.
It’s off to join the suited cattle that respond to an unseen herder. As we automatically get down from metallic cylinders spewing thick smoke to an already gray sky, I make my way across the crowd, still unsure why I want to get there first, to a cubicle, a keyboard and no sunshine.
I see her on the corner of Eighth Avenue. Her skin is wrinkled leather, nothing like our pale, inhuman countenance; don’t know which one is best. Her shoulders bob to the amputated pace of crutches stuck to her armpits. She is determined to live one more day, one more hour or one more second.
She reaches out, holding a plastic cup, is that recycling? As if she were a voluntary tollbooth, some shoot coins into it; a charitable justification for our existence followed by a drunken thank you.
My breath hastens, my palms grow slippery and now as if the unseen herder orders me, I reach into my pocket, playing a game of hypocritical cat and mouse. My fingers slither through keys, bubblegum wrap, receipts and wrinkled bills. No, not a bill, it’s too much. Weaving in and out of a maze of perfectly cut hair, tight executive dresses and pinstripe suits, I picture the conversation.
“Got’nything for me?”
“No, not today,” I might say, I’m still unsure as to whether I feel generous or not, “sure, here you go.”
She mumbles then I know she’ll forget about me. I don’t want to know where that money is going, do I? My hand digs deeper into my pocket. I get closer to her and the rattling sound she does to lure somebody gets louder and louder.
Does it really make a difference, to me or her? I should give it to her and that way, I fill up my charity quote for the day. My fingers clench something and it’s filthy, all of a sudden, for me it’s meaningless; how can she beg for this?
I clutch the modern tithe. I don’t want to let it go though I’ll probably lose my spare change tomorrow in the crevasses of public transportation, just like that pen you keep losing.
Still she’ll fight for it and insult me if I don’t give her anything.
I peek downwards and analyze it. Damn perfect circle.
Someone bumps into me, my feet get confused and so do I, for a moment my body rocks sideways, my horizon tilts, then my mind regains composure but it’s too late, the coin detaches from me and bounces once, twice then rolls away mocking me with a titillating laugh until it crashes against a wall and falls flat, dead. He turns to me and immediately apologizes, for a second there we’re human, we are embarrassed, we’ve broken an order, a routine far too sacred, the replay button. He crouches.
“This is yours, sorry.” He says, “have a nice day.”
“Thanks,” I clutch the coin tighter. I brush off the imaginary dust off my suit and walk away, “you too.”
I put the coin back in my pocket. It’s mine. Perhaps tomorrow will be different but today it’s mine.