A Box Of Donuts

by Ishani Dash

As the lights turned from red to white, I had this familiar thought: there was definitely some element missing in me. Like, when God created me, he most likely forgot to add the ‘happy’ chemical. Or was I simply cursed with feeling lonely and isolated for the rest of my life?

I sighed and crossed the street. There was a dessert shop downtown called ‘Glace’, very far from where I lived but it promised the best chocolate and peanut butter donuts in the city. I had taken two different subways and walked for at least twenty-five minutes cumulatively to reach this place. As I rounded into the corner of the street, I saw a long queue outside the store. Ugh, great! I went to take my spot amid a bunch of expensive-looking dogs and inexpensive-looking kids. It’s funny how people cared more about their dogs than their own flesh-and-blood, but I suppose that’s what the world had come to.

Twenty minutes later, I managed to enter Glace. Ten minutes later, I had in my hands two boxes of donuts worth a week’s rent. All mine. I had expected to feel happier somehow, but I just felt tired after a quarter day’s commute. I noticed I had been eating a lot of desserts lately. As if any amount of sugar could replace the warmth of a meaningful life, but I suppose it came pretty close. I crossed the street to make my way towards the subway back home. On my way towards the inevitable, I made the mistake of locking eyes with a homeless man. Oh no! Oh, God no!

He was dressed in at least three layers despite the rather warm fall afternoon, and carrying around a sack presumably filled with his belongings. I guess humans didn’t need much for living, yet we filled our lives with home furnishings and fancy soap dispensers. I continued walking towards the subway station, wondering who was worse off – me or this man with few needs. I concluded it must be him. At least I had two boxes of dessert in my manicured hands. As I was about to step inside the subway, the homeless man stopped me and said, “Miss, you have anything for me?”

His words stopped me in my tracks. He sounded so… polished. I suppose as a foreigner I was not used to homeless people speaking fluent English. But there was something about him that made me want to avoid him and look at him at the same time. Perhaps he was the first person to notice me all day. Perhaps he made me feel guilty for spending forty dollars on empty calories. For whatever reason, I couldn’t move.

I squinted for whole two seconds and then turned towards my left to look at him. He stared right back at me. Meaningfully. His eyes were a deep blue. It stirred something inside me. Oh God, what was I doing? I noticed two fat tears making their way into the corners of my eyes. My nose felt hot. I sniffled. The homeless man was now uncomfortable. Great, that served him right! How dare he! I dug my right hand inside my bag for spare change, only to realize I didn’t have any. Well, who really carried around cash in 2021? I only had me, my eyes now brimming with tears, and two bags of desserts meant to fill me up.

Without thinking more, I took out one box of donuts and handed it to him. “Have a great day,” I murmured and raced straight ahead without meeting his eyes. As my feet hurried down the stairs, I realized I felt lighter than I was seconds ago. A smile escaped my lips as I swiped my metro card.

I never saw the homeless man again. But that day, that day he saw me. The only one who did.

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