The Veteran (Part 1)

The alarm rang once more after pressing the snooze button five times. I felt so warm under my handmade quilt my mom had made me. I found myself dozing off again until I remembered the big meeting I had in two hours. My heart skipped with that sudden fear of being late as I jumped off my bed. I raced back and forth, covering all corners of my room putting my outfit together; the weather music playing in the background. I could tell it was freezing outside since I could still feel the cold seep through my carpet. My cellphone rang (Dave) now I knew for sure I was running late. Dave always picked me up for work; entertaining me with his knowledge. It seemed he knew a little bit about everything. (One missed call). I slid the screen to redial, but he beat me too it. My phone rang and vibrated in my hand. (Dave) His mellow voice came through.
“Running late, yet again.” He said with a slight chuckle. All I could muster was a sigh. “Well lucky for you I bought you coffee. Your favorite, salted caramel … large.”
“Oh Dave! What would I do without you?” I heard him laugh as I shoved my keys in my purse; adjusting my coat and scarf.
“Wither and die Katherine, wither and die.”
I was thankful that Dave drove, especially today, the temperature only reaching twenty-eight degrees. He made it onto the expressway, my vision being blurred by the fogginess caused by the cars heater. Even as a little girl, I would trace my name or the names of my current boyfriends on the window. I drew a dog pooping, “Kat… aren’t we a little too old for that?”
I placed my hand on my chest and laughed, “Dave, I’m shocked! One is never too old for comedy.” He laughed while turning the heat up in the car. “It’s freezing today!” I said embracing my chest.
“Yea…Hey do you think that veteran will still be out front?” Dave spoke with worry in his voice. I looked out onto traffic.
“I sure hope not. Today is freezing and it’s going to get worse by night.” We call him the veteran, because for the pass year that man has been at the corner of our company, dressed in a camouflage coat, green pants, and combat boots. He also carried a green cap and a green military bag, but for me the most noticeable feature he had were his eyes. He carried the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen. His brown eyes seemed like a river of hurt and unexplainable pain. The wrinkles and darkness around his eyes, spoke of many sleepless nights, the lines like a map of experience. Although he was homeless, he seemed well put together. My guess is the habit of being in the military, always having to look presentable. For the many times I’ve seen him, he’s never asked for money. He didn’t even own a coffee cup and let his situation speak for itself. He only sat there. Sometimes he’ll look up when someone passing by throws change into his lap. There’s been occasions that I’ve seen him mumble, but I’ve never been daring enough to approach him and listen.
As Dave was pulling up to the Boroughs Daily where we worked, I saw that he was there–just sitting. “He’s there!” I turned to Dave, “I can’t believe it; he’s going to freeze to death!” I wondered how anyone who served our country could be condemned to homelessness. I stared at him through the passenger side window. I felt so warm in the car, so warm that for a split second I forgot it was still winter outside. I was startled by the gust of wind that entered the car as Dave opened the door. I opened the car door and removed my cobalt blue scarf. The wind was blowing hard, my hair whipping my face; scarf in hand waving like a saluting flag.
“Put your scarf back on!” the wind so loud he yelled. I shook my head trying to remove my hair from my face.
“I’ll meet you inside!”
Dave walked past me and entered the glass windowed building. I watched him show his ID to the security guards Mike and Darrell. They smiled and nodded, gesturing him to walk on through. I slowly walked to the veteran and thought of ways of giving him my scarf, but all required close contact. Even though he didn’t look dangerous, you never know, besides this is New York. Unfortunately, there are a lot of homeless people who need medication and would probably do well in life if they had treatment. With so many thoughts in my head, I didn’t realize I was standing in front of him. I looked down and saw he was staring at me either suspiciously or out of curiosity as to why I was standing so close to him. “I’m sorry!” repeating my apology as I knelt down. The quickest thing I could think of out of pure embarrassment was to hang my scarf around his neck like a wall hook and bolt to my meeting.
I felt my face flushed with heat on how stupid I felt. I removed my coat almost desperately. I entered the elevator and pressed the seventh floor; it was empty and the silence vibrated against my ear drums. I thought about the homeless veteran and realized a scarf would not have done him justice. I stared at the coat that hanged over my arm. I could see the pattern of threading made with detail. How lucky I felt to be indoors.
I spent the whole day thinking about the veteran. I hardly paid any attention in the meeting. I typed away at my cubicle when Dave came by and perched on the divider like an eagle.
“Whatcha thinking about?” With a slight smirk on his face; I looked up at him.
“About the veteran.” I couldn’t quite understand what my sudden fascination about the poor man was. “I just wonder a lot of things about him. You know, like if he has family. Was he in the military? What’s his name…?” Dave just stared at me, bewildered by my obsession with the man from the corner.


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