Today I'm craving cream and meat, so I go to Boston Market for lunch. It's a fast food place that's trying very hard not to be a fast food place. Today, this is good. I have to get back to the office quick-like, but I don't want to look at a screen while I eat.
The cashier is grandmotherly. Would you like to donate $1 to end child hunger and get a free side with your next meal? she twinkles. How can I say no? She gives me a paper to write my name and my favorite side dish, and I write my full name, realizing it was the wrong thing too late. They post these on the wall. It's just an ad. I write down green beans, although I didn't order them today.
A matron gives me the stinkeye for sitting in a booth. I'm reading The Adderall Diaries, and I can feel her eyes boring through the pages. She has bad hair and a gaudy purse. Her daughters are miffed on her behalf, but a helpful Boston Market employee shows them to another booth.
A homeless guy wanders in. His nappy hair has a layer of dust, like powdered sugar. There's a commotion among the employees. They're trying to make him go away.
He plays with the plant, pulling at the leaves and watching them bounce back, a purse of drool falling from his open mouth. The woman at the next table turns up the volume on her conversation, determined not to notice him. One of the servers hands him a to-go container of food and lifts her arm toward the door. Maybe it's macaroni and cheese, I can't tell.
I need, he says. I need.
The girls in their Boston Market uniforms are moving fast. Napkins and plastic utensils. He's handed things in a flurry, and a tall employee, her chin up, walks toward the door, beckoning him like a child. He follows her outside.
I called Security, but they were too slow, she says, her bones loosening as she walks back to the counter.
It's an interesting bargain. They bribe him with food to leave. He holds them hostage by being there, stinking up the place, making people uncomfortable.
I want to know his story. I feel like I'm getting close to something, but I can't be sure.
How do you know?