If Only Someone Had Cared a Little More
Martin Dean Dupalo | Grace Gao
It was the day before a new president was to take office. For many, excitement and hope was swelling. For others, another day of survival and nothing more. It was late Monday, dinner time for most. The man wandered into the restaurant hungry. No different than most except that he was homeless. No one had noticed him before. He walked in to the Asian restaurant in Chinatown looking the part, out of place by most standards. No one knows why he chose it. But he had a few dollars and ordered. A solitary item — soup. Service was not refused.
He waited in the waiting area next to the door waiting for his soup. Nobody spoke to him except for the young cashier that had taken his order. The soup came and he paid. He wouldn’t eat his food with the other customers. He didn’t feel comfortable. Maybe he felt the customers would notice him. Maybe the single item would give away his lack of employment or wealth sitting among us who order to excess every day. Maybe worse, maybe he felt he was not good enough to eat alongside the others that night. Instead he chose to eat outside.
He walked out into the parking lot. With two parking rows adjacent to two narrow cement paths, the narrow strip mall offered little privacy but plenty of oil, fumes and noise. And then he did what billions of people do every day, he began to eat his food. But this time was different when a security guard approached him. He was told in no uncertain terms to move along. No eating in the parking lot. Only the guard knows what words were exchanged.
The homeless man returned through the same doors of the same restaurant moments later to that same cashier. He told the young girl that a security guard had stopped him from eating his food. The next words were troubling. He said he was having a heart attack.
The young cashier, in her broken English, understood. She responded. Inexplicably the man said “No” when asked whether to call 9-1-1. He walked away once again never to return.
It was not until the security guard walked through those same doors an hour later that the heartbreaking truth became apparent. The man died. The yellow tape was in view across the busy street. The police and ambulance had arrived.
The short-lived account of what occurred was no more clearer other than the death of the homeless man who simply wanted to eat his soup alone in a cold parking lot.
Others were told what happened just moments before and only feet away. The atmosphere was stoic for a moment save a few.
The hostess cried “If someone cared a little more …” She continued to cry. Through the tears, she explained. The words came easy, her vocalized thoughts unmistakable. She wanted the man to be treated like a man — not a homeless man, not in the last minutes of his life.
If only someone had cared … if only this were a story of fiction.