"Spare Change" by Lisa Tarr

 

There was a homeless woman on my doorstep. She asked me to donate money to the Bristol Warriors’ football team because her son is the varsity running back and they needed new uniforms. Something told me she didn’t have a son, and by the way she spoke so urgently I could tell she had somewhere else she wanted to be.


I invited her inside. I asked her if she smoked.


Yes.


I asked her if she was hungry.


Yes.


We sat on my back porch and talked about the world as it stood and she smoked all of my cigarettes but I didn’t care. I fed her butter-flavored popcorn and cold, leftover Salisbury steak sandwiches and salted peanuts from the can. I asked her about her "son" -- what his name was. She didn’t say much about him, other than that his name was Julian. Or maybe she said Jordan.


“Sometimes I feel so anxious and I think I’m going to die, but nobody wants to talk about things like that," she said. "They don’t want to listen. It’s like church. The whole world is like Sunday fucking mass. I don’t understand anything and that’s when I feel this kind of anxiety that is like someone walking behind you on a crowded street, but it’s not crowded to you because all you notice is the person who’s been following you for ten blocks.”


She kept talking like that for several minutes, or maybe the rest of the night, but I eventually stopped listening. Then she asked me the time. I told her I didn’t know. She got up and started to leave.

“Hey, wait,” I coughed out.


She turned around and sighed this last-breath kind of sigh. I gave her all of the cash that I had in my pocket. “For your son,” I said.


She didn’t thank me. All I could do was wonder what kind of dope she was going to get and how good it was going to be, but I don’t think she cared too much.