The Icebreaker Requester (Short Story)

  • This is a work of fiction but is loosely based on true events that happened to me.

I must have an inviting face for someone to constantly stop me in my tracks to my destination. Have you ever come across those annoying canvassers trying to stop you for only a “minute” to promote an organization for a good cause only to keep you standing there while you try your best to stay composed and not bolt? Or how about a downtown bum trying to swindle you for change to possibly get drunk or high again. Sometimes I entertain the latter because there were a couple of genuine ones who had their heads sort of straight and I would give them some change. It’s interesting, this time around I came across a disheveled man smoking a cigarette requesting for whatever I could spare, but I was the one who got something from him even if he knew it or not. 

Scene 1: Icebreaker Request 

Location: South Station, Boston MA

I didn’t see him coming, he materialized around the corner of Boston’s South Station T station, wearing an oversized zip up charcoal hoodie, distressed jeans, and worn out Nike black Air Force ones. The cigarette he held between his chapped lips looked newly lit and he slowly came walking towards me. He stood at 5’10 a few inches shorter than I at 6’1 and was two shades lighter than my dark brown skin. A particularly notable feature were his dark freckles, the ones Morgan Freeman has, and a healing scab that would soon enough become a scar near his left eyebrow. For some peculiar reason the dead despondency of his dark eyes commanded my attention. 

“I like ‘em shades brotha,” he said to break the ice and gain my attention

You might have had different experiences than I when it comes to dealing with transient homeless. They seem to always start with an icebreaker to get something off you, and remember those canvassers I told you about? They do that too. Once a canvasser complimented me on a black wool flat hat I wore but I knew her agenda behind her dough eyes. Caught off guard she began to pause as if deciding on whether to lie when I asked her how many people stopped to speak with her, and it turned out no one bothered. So you know what I did? I was in a good mood that day and wanted to hear her out. Turns out they were looking for people to help contribute money to underdeveloped nations with suffering children, but how could I help a child when I was trying to help myself get my feet grounded on a stable career and a consistent cash flow that eluded me for two months? She went on talking about a monthly payment plan which caused me to end the interaction there. What I’m getting at is sometimes some people are friendly only for a fee or your time and once you don’t succumb to their persistent begging they’ll have to readjust their plan since it didn’t turn out how they wanted. 

“Good looks,” I said, doing my best to keep my back turned and continue walking without looking back. 

“Hey, Hey” he raised his voice on the second “hey”. I turned around to not alert people around us, but I’m sure someone already did. 

“What’s good”? I asked looking at him behind my blue-tinted sunglasses

“Can I get dolla or whatevah you got brotha?”

“Man I’m tryin’ get some myself, when you find someone lemme know ‘cause a niggah gotta find somethin’ to sink his teeth in ‘fore he loses his mind and health. 

I was telling half-truths, the truth was I indeed didn’t have any cash on me, but the lie was trying to assimilate into and present myself as a man completely out of his luck. The latter was very possible but I haven’t reached that level yet.  

“I hear you on that,” he said as his eyes darted up and down to size me up, possibly trying to compare me to his compadres”.  

“Why you wearin’ a suit if you ain’t gots no money”? He asked 

I was wearing a navy blazer, a black hoodie, grey slacks, and black dress boots. 

“This is one’a the pieces of clothin’ I can hold onto to remember what it was like livin’ a normal life if I ever hit rock bottom” 

“Normal life, niggah whatchu talkin’ ‘bout?” he said, taking a puff of his cigarette. They ain’t nuthin’ normal goin’ on these days for anyone especially us black folks, we just livin’ on different difficulties. For me, shit is on hard 24/7 an’ I’m just tryin’ make it day by day, an’ for you, you in limbo not sure which side you can fall into, but you young an’ can always crawl yo’self back to where you were and then some, you feel me”?

“Yeah man, I mean just thirty minutes ago I was tryin’ get unemployment again but since I got laid off an’ then quit ‘cause my job was pullin’ some bullshit. Now I can’t get that shit, an’ so I’m lookin’ for a new job every day.  

“You on it then, keep pushin’ an’ you gonna breakthrough,” he said as his eyes scanned for possible donor” 

“No doubt, I gotta get goin’ man,” I said and headed toward the financial district”. 

“Stay up brotha” he said

Scene 2 : Droppings

As I made my way downtown I went through my pockets to see if I had an extra napkin to blow my nose as my sinuses began acting up. After finding one, seagulls from the Boston Harbor made their way downtown where they had an afternoon assembly under the sunshine and amid the noise of traffic. As I blew my nose a splat on the concrete caught my attention, and realized that I was a foot away from where a seagull dropped its bowels. 

“What the”…? 

Looking up I stopped to study which one of them almost sabotaged my day. I reached into the left breast pocket of the blazer to put my napkin back in and felt larger than an average coin. Mind you I never used this pocket since I got this blazer as a hand me down from my late pops and started wearing it a few days before this encounter. I pulled out the coin and realized it was a copper-colored one dollar with Sacagawea on it. I looked up again at the seagulls and then across the street where I met the man who I called from that day on “The Icebreaker Requester”. I shook my head and smirked at the oddity and headed towards Downtown Crossing station heading back home wondering how the rest of my week would turn out. What a way to start off a Monday. 

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