Every Tuesday was date night. That meant walking by the park, a random restaurant for dinner, or some fancy cupcakery they found along the street. At night they would sit on their balcony and gaze out at the city, sipping on cappuccinos in porcelain cups. The city glowed differently on those nights. It let out a sort of pale twinkling that invited the couple to wander at their leisure. But on Wednesday mornings, the city became harsh again, a vacuum of peace and instead an institute of chaos, wanderers, and disappointments.
The lady was a receptionist. The man was a cubicle worker. They both were indentured to their desks during the week, and their conversations lulled to the mundane. Talks on the phone became recitations of that day’s agenda. Meet-ups for lunch were rushed. The waiters were never fast enough, their phones were always ringing, there was always too much to do. Dinners were spent in worry over the next day’s work. And the cycle continued.
Soon, Tuesday date nights lost their appeal. They had been to all the restaurants, and the food was expensive and not very enjoyable. They didn’t want to walk past the same park, with the same homeless woman sitting on her bench, to see the same ducks. The sweet smell of the cupcakery made them nauseous. It was too cold out to sit on their balcony, and they didn’t have time to sip cappuccinos. On Tuesday nights, they thought about the next Wednesday morning they would have to face. They had nothing to talk about because they had said it all before. They were tired.
On Wednesday morning, the man sat in his cubicle, and began to loathe it. He hated the three light blue walls surrounding him. He hated how he could hear the typing of everyone else around him. He hated how the lady three desks away would always be doing that nasally laugh while she talked on the phone. The lights in his office made his head hurt, the air smelled like black licorice and hand soap, and his legs had that numb pinpricking feeling of falling asleep. The man heaved a sigh, grabbed his wallet, and went for his lunch break. Outside, he didn’t feel that the weather was frigid and he didn’t hear the saxophone player playing on the street corner. But what he did notice was a bright green truck headed down Main Street. That bright green truck was the kabob truck, and he was pretty sure a kabob was the thing that he most wanted in the world. The man briskly took off following the kabob truck down Main Street.
On Wednesday night, a woman sat on a bench shivering. She could see her breath in the air, and the grass was covered in frost. Her hair hung matted in knots around her face, and she had a cough that never went away. She watched all the passersby and looked at all of their faces, but none of them looked back. She looked for a face she knew, a familiar face, but it did not come. Her anticipation received nothing but disappointment. As the night settled in and enveloped the park in a thick black cloak, the park-walkers were long gone. The woman sighed. The woman had lived on this bench for months, waiting, and in the past month she felt colder than she ever had in her entire life. She knew all the police routine check ups throughout the park. Before police rangers would ride past on their horses, she had disappeared into the trees. As soon as they were gone, she was back on her bench as if she had never left. She was always waiting in the cold. Her toes were numb, her fingers seemed stuck in their joints, her nose was running, and she couldn’t stop shivering. She sat awake until her eyes forced themselves closed and she fell asleep, quivering with cold.
The man finally reached the kabob truck, which had stopped in front of the park where he always walked with the lady. He stood in the long line and waited, the smell of beef and peppers and onions whispering to his nostrils. He tried to remember the last time he had seen this kabob truck, the last time he had eaten a kabob. A smile crept onto his face. The last time he had seen this kabob truck was after a day of shopping with his lady. They had both indulged and wiped out their credit cards on watches and jewelry and business casual clothes and patent leather shoes.
“We have to look professional to make it in this city! We look like regular old suburban bums!” the lady had exclaimed to him, throwing her head back laughing like she used to everyday. That had been months ago. Now he was wearing his broken-in patent leather shoes, standing in a line at the side of a green truck and realizing he hadn’t heard that laugh in weeks. He no longer looked like a “suburban bum.” He was quite the city man now, complete with a long wool coat and a Burberry scarf.
“Quite professional indeed,” he thought as grabbed his foil-wrapped kabob and a handful of thin napkins. The man looked around for a place to sit and saw that all the benches were taken near the kabob truck, so headed towards the benched near the park’s duck pond.
That night, the woman woke up because of a sharp pain in her stomach. It was the pain of hunger. The woman knew staying on this bench was killing her. She wasn’t getting enough to eat and a chill had entered her body that she felt would never go away. The woman scooped down to pick up her can of change and started a fit of coughing. She coughed so hard that tears began to run down her face. When she finally stopped, she breathed heavily to catch her breath. She would have to seek out a homeless shelter soon. The thought of leaving her bench soon made her anxious. There was something she needed to do before she left, and it could not be put off any longer. She was sure of that.
The man walked around the park with his kabob, utterly starving. It was infuriating that all the benches were taken up and he had to endure walking around with an uneaten kabob. The man hated to stand while eating food, it was one of his biggest pet peeves besides hearing people’s knuckles crack. His phone started to ring. Again. His phone was always ringing, he could never have a moment’s peace, he wanted to eat his kabob, he had a headache, his phone kept ringing- PLOP! He threw it into the pond. He smiled genuinely for the first time in months.
“That was a good throw, boy!” he heard a woman from behind him. He turned and saw it was the old homeless woman he had always passed by. Still in good spirits, he did a silly bow. She threw her head back and laughed so hard she started coughing with a terrible croaking sound. She seemed to cough for a minute straight, slapping her thigh with each croak. The man wasn’t sure what to do. He wanted to walk away, but she sounded so ill.
“Are you okay?” He walked over to her, standing awkwardly next to the bench she was sitting on. She coughed even harder. He picked up the cup of water she had next to her and put it to her lips. “Here, drink something.” As she sipped the water, he noticed how much she was shaking. He looked at everything that surrounded her. A dirty light pink comforter, a plastic tote bag, and a rusty can in front of her. He felt like a pig sitting next to her with his stupid patent leather shoes. A pig who had almost walked away. She had stopped coughing and was looking at him strangely. Her eyes became wide.
“I’m okay now,” she said quickly. She turned her back to him, still shivering.
“Nonsense. You are shaking like a leaf,” the man took her arm and turned her towards him. “Eat this.” He handed her the kabob. “You need it more than me.”
He cut her off. “You can and you will. I won’t leave this bench until you eat it.” So the man sat next to the woman, biting into his kabob and looking worried out of her mind. He looked in his wallet for money to give her, and saw that he didn’t have any more cash. He had spent the last of it on the kabob, and all he had were credit cards. He felt awful. He wanted to give this poor, cold lady something more than beef on a skewer. As he thought about all this, he suddenly felt the woman’s eyes watching him. He turned to her. “Is something wrong? Is the kabob okay?”
She slowly spoke. “Yes. Yes it’s wonderful, thank you. But. But. But, I need to ask you something.”
He nodded for her to continue, and she pointed to his ring. “Are you happy?” She asked him.
The man had to think for a long time. He thought about his lady, and he was happy. He thought about his job, and his light blue cubicle, and the mundane cycle that had become his life, and he was sad. He explained these things to her. And soon, the man was telling the homeless woman all about his life. He told her about the Tuesday date nights and what they had become, he told her about the balcony, he told her about the woman with the nasally laugh, he told her about his patent leather shoes. He told her he missed those cappuccinos. The woman and the man talked so long, that the man skipped the rest of his work that afternoon. His office tried calling him, but they couldn’t reach him on his phone because it was swimming with the ducks.
On Thursday morning, the lady woke up to the smell of bacon. Upon walking into the kitchen, she found her husband had laid out breakfast on the table, and a dozen red roses were sitting in a vase.
“What’s all this for, dear?” she asked her husband, who had grabbed her around the waist and started dancing around the kitchen with her.
“Why, it’s for you!” He responded. She threw her head back and laughed.
On Tuesday night, the couple went for a lovely dinner at a pub they had never attended. They laughed the whole night long, and didn’t stop telling each other stories. After dinner at the pub, the couple went for a walk to the park. They went on their usual route that always went past the homeless woman and towards the ducks. This time, the husband stopped at the bench and looked for the woman. She wasn’t there. Only her coin can was there, rusty as anything. The man looked at his lady, perplexed.
When the couple arrived home, they found a package in front of their door. “To my daughter and to her wonderful man,” the note on the package said. The lady looked up at her man, perplexed.
“I’ve never met my mother!” They opened the package, and inside was a cappuccino maker.