"Kindred Spirit" by David Catney


I'm at work. I'm on break. I'm standing at the side of the grocery store, smoking cigarettes. My break was supposed to be over five minutes ago. I light another cigarette. A middle-aged lady walks up to me. She's stumbling. She has a beer in her hand. Her clothes are dirty. A kindred spirit. I smile at her. She starts mumbling different things to me. I can't understand much of what she's saying, so I just smile and nod. Eventually she starts crying. In between the claptrap and indistinguishable mumbles, I can make out some of what she's saying. She tells me that she's homeless. She tells me that she was kicked out of her boyfriend's house and her parents won't take her in either. She's crying because she misses her boyfriend. She's crying because all the homeless shelters are always filled, so there isn't even a point to try and get a bed there. She's crying because she is lonely. She's crying because it feels good to cry. I don't say much. For some reason I'm still smiling and nodding. She finishes her beer then pulls a bottle of vodka out of a plastic bag. She takes a swig. She tries to spit on the ground, but she falls over instead. She hits the pavement. Hard. I help her back up to her feet. She passes me the bottle. I take a shot. I pass the bottle back to her. I tell her that I have to get back to work and that it was nice talking to her. She mumbles something. I walk back into the grocery store. She walks in the opposite direction, crying.