Soup Line

I’m guessing he’s at least 85, maybe even 90. He’s wearing long yellow pants and a beige cardigan. He’s hunched over the soup bar and seems to be having trouble pulling apart a stack of paper bowls. His knobby fingers and skinny arms shake as he tries to break one free.

I ask if I can give him a hand. He doesn’t respond. Doesn’t even look up. While I’m repeating myself, he finally pries off a cup then turns towards me. His white mustache is half-shaved and blotched with dried blood. More red dots stain the tip of his nose and the wrinkled collar of his dingy white shirt. His glasses are filthy and there’s a pound of sand in his eyes. His mouth opens wide and I see my grandpa’s gold teeth and brown tongue.

“What?” he hollers, cocking an ear in my direction. I fumble an explanation and he cuts me off mid-sentence. “Don’t do that!” he yells. “You should never do that!” I notice other shoppers stop to see what’s going on. “Sorry mister, I was just trying to help you out with the cups.” He shakes his head at me and raises his paper bowl in the air. “Yeah yeah, everyone’s trying to help. Well stop it! You need to let people struggle!”

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