by Heber Guerra-Recinos ‘20
I am walking on the sidewalk of Southgate Bridge through Edinburgh. It is Christmas Eve, in the evening. The dark sky illuminated with the Christmas Market light pollution and the red blanket of light covering the Castle. I have just left the Edinburgh Underground Ghost Tour and am walking towards Burrito ‘n Shake to grab some dinner.
On my way there, I am approached by a gentleman. He is wearing a dark blue hoodie, black sweatpants, black boots, and he is hunched over. His hair is long and in a messy ponytail. “Sorry to bother you sir,” he says, “but I am homeless. Would you be so kind as to spare some change?” I stop and turn towards him.
“I can give you a pound,” I say.
“That would be quite alright.”
I produce my wallet and look for a shiny, gold coin. As I do so, he takes out a deck of blue playing cards. “Would you like to see a magic trick?” He spreads them out, inviting me to pick one.
“That’s okay. I’m fine.” I say. I hand him the pound.
“Thank you, sir,” he says, “Thank you so much. And Merry Christmas.” He extends his hand, and I reach out and shake it.
“Merry Christmas to you too.” I say. He walks off, and I continue walking. I walk a few feet, and catch myself rubbing my hand against the side of my pants.
“Why… did I just do that?” I say to no one in particular.
I am walking on the side walk of Southgate Bridge through Edinburgh. It is Christmas Day, and I have just left the Edinburgh Darkside story, where I am still reflecting on the murders of flat mates, the witch accusation of Angus Sampson, and red cap fairies. Being that it is Christmas Day, most of the restaurants are closed. I go to one of the remaining restaurants that are open and have any food left: Peri Chicken.
I order 10 chicken wings with medium spice, with two sides of spicy rice and coleslaw. I overestimate how much I could stomach and finish five and a half wings, and all of the rice and coleslaw, a rather satisfying meal for my last night in Scotland. I ask for a take-out box and leave.
I call an Uber outside of the restaurant and wait there. I look down to the box of leftover wings. “Am I really going to finish these? I can stuff them in the fridge, but there’s no guarantee that I’ll even eat them tomorrow.”
As I look at my Uber driver’s profile, I am approached by a gentleman. He is wearing a dark blue hoodie, black sweatpants, black boots, and he is hunched over. His hair is long and in a messy ponytail. “Sorry to bother you, sir,” he says, “but I am homeless. Would you be so kind as to spare some change?” I turn towards him.
“Say, aren’t you the same fellow who asked me for money yesterday?” He doesn’t reply, only baring a slight look of confusion on his face. “Well, that’s fine. I don’t mind giving you money. I can give you a pound.”
“That would be quite alright,” he says.”
I take out my wallet and look for a pound. He pulls out a deck of blue playing cards. “Would you like to see a magic trick?”
I recognize the deck of cards. “Ah, you are the same fellow from last night.”
As I look through the coin pouch, I produce a twenty-pound coin. Not what I wanted. As I put it back, he says, “I am asking people, trying to get enough money so that I can stay in a hostel for the night.”
As I keep rummaging through my wallet, I look to him and ask, “Is… is that your daily routine?” He looks around as he responds, so I do not hear his response. I hand him the pound. “Thank you, sir. Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas to you too,” I say, and he crosses the street.
My Uber driver is four minutes away. I watch the homeless man approach more people. A couple who are about my age. He shows them the magic trick, but I do not see if they give him any money. He crosses the street again, so we are now on the same sidewalk. He walks alongside an older couple, but they ignore him.
My Uber driver is two minutes away. I look down to the box of chicken wings in my hand. The homeless man grabs a bottled drink which resembles Vitamin Water from a small doorway in building, and a woman appears from behind the same opening. I take her to be his partner. They both begin walking in my direction.
I approach him, “Hey buddy,” I begin, “Are you hungry?”
“Hungry? A little.”
“Would you like my leftover chicken wings? There are about three, and one that is half eaten, if that’s okay.”
The tone in his voice lifts a bit. “Oh, yes, I would love that, thank you.” I hand him the box, and he continues walking. The woman approaches me. She is wearing a coat that resembles denim, and similarly dark clothing to the man. She is wearing gloves that lack any finger tips, and her hair is also in a messy ponytail. Her face appears tired, and the lines running along her face are a bit deep.
“Thank you, really.” She says as she extends her hand to me. I extend mine and take it. It is not a full handshake, but it is enough where our fingers grab those of the other. Despite this, I feel her squeeze my hand lightly.
“Thank you. That is very kind of you.”
“You’re welcome.” I give her a soft smile.
“Thank you,” she says again, and she continues to speak, but in a soft tone, so I do not make out most of what she says. She begins walking after the man while still facing me, and I make out, “… this is my every day, so every bit helps.” While still facing me, she walks off, where she taps her chest over her heart with four fingers, followed by the shaka sign. I mimic and return the gesture.
They both walk off. As I watch them, I look down to my right hand, and resist the habitual urge to rub it against my pant leg.