The Man on the Corner

by Milli Girard, 2004

Southwest Mall Plaza is just a few blocks from our home. That’s where I’ve seen him when I’m on the passenger side in (husband) Don’s car, and also when I’m behind the wheel. He’s a skinny shaggy looking man, maybe fifty years old, on crutches, holding a “Need Help” sign.

There is a double left-turn lane at this intersection.  I’m uncomfortable when we make our left hand turn onto Cross Street and pass him by. If I’m driving and in the left hand lane when I come to the stop light I reach for my wallet and manage to give him a dollar; but usually I’m not in that lane and the light is green and I feel badly for him.  It would be a huge traffic hazard to stop to help him if the traffic has the green arrow.

Don dutifully writes a check each month for our favorite charities. I’m as tight with my money as anyone, yet when the weather was wet and cold I hated to see the man trying to stand on his crutches depending on the mercy of us all.

One time, as the light began to turn green, I saw him hurry to hobble back onto the island curb after reaching for a donation in the far lane. Would he make it without falling?

The last time I was in that left turn lane going south on Wadsworth I had plenty of time to get my wallet out.  The light turned red and I had to stop.  I handed the almost toothless scrawny man a single dollar bill.

“Thank you and God bless you!” he exclaimed. After another God Bless You, he said: “I’m a Vietnam veteran. I go to the Unemployment Office every morning. I don’t like to stand here.  It’s humiliating.”

With yet another “Thank You” and “May God Bless You”, I was beginning to feel uncomfortable — a little stingy — like a cheapskate.  It was only a dollar for heaven’s sake.

Would the green arrow ever come? Enough was enough.

And then he said the strangest thing. “You smell good.”

The green arrow came … at last.

Milli Girard 2004


4 thoughts on “The Man on the Corner”

  1. Marcy

    As soon as I read it I could smell those smells. Water and soap and Jean Nate and emeraude and the kitchen warm on a cold afternoon when I got home from school and there was hot chocolate.

    I wonder where those scents took the gentleman back to, more than just a time when clean wasn’t such a struggle

    Thank you Joe. And thank you Milli

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