Recent rain on a summer day had dried too quickly and not cleaned the concrete of half-dried soda, food, spit and slime, and the young man stepped with his head down, moving with the Sunday morning crowd, one of many, not a separate individual so much as a piece of a whole.
“Twenty-five cents for a meal!” shouted a voice at the top of the stairs where the exterior light met the dank of the subway tunnel. The voice had a Deep South accent, gravelly, older, black. Directed at everyone: “Ah fought in the wah faw yuh!”
The young man raised his eyes and saw a man in a filthy dark grey suit. Soiled tie. Silver beard. Yellowed teeth.
“You want breakfast?” the younger man asked.
“Oh. OH! Yes!”
They walked together to a diner a few steps away and, entering, asked for a table for two. The host looked over the grey suit and hesitated for just a moment. The young man eyed him.
Seated, they were given menus.
They ordered and soon the older man was presented with eggs, home fries and biscuits. He exclaimed, “Thank you, Jesus!” and started in.
They ate in silence for a while. The older man made grumbling noises while he stuffed the scrambled eggs in his mouth.
At once: “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, HALLELUJAH!” the man shouted to noone in particular, bits of half-chewed egg flying across the table. Other diners looked their way.
The younger man learned that his dining companion lived in a shelter in Harlem five days a week but was turned out each weekend. The older man had been begging for money to stay somewhere that night. He claimed he had a daughter who lived some distance away who wasn’t in a position to help financially. He had no family in New York City.
The bill was paid and they left the restaurant. They said goodbye, and the young man continued on to his church, where he arrived late for the service.
And didn’t care.