the cardboard cut-outs

Here in Chinatown, at 7:36am, the cardboard cutouts still sleep with the rest of their lives scattered beside them. When they sleep, they are still awake, with fingers webbed around their belongings.

I lock up my bike and wish I had something to offer them. More than just a handful of nuts and dried cranberries or one-fourth of a granola bar, from yesterday. More than just a look of acknowledgment (which so often translates as pity). More than just a pile of pennies or coins not quite enough to make a difference.

Later, a cardboard cutout smiles at me and I give him one back. He counts my teeth and notices my scratched body. I notice the bruises staining his face.

He calls this, “A good day.” And I replay his voice in my mind because suddenly I am unsure if he asked, “A good day?” or was telling me, “A good day!”

I want to tell him that it’s good because we are in it. Or it’s good because we are halfway done with it. Or it’s good because we both seem to be breathing and sometimes that is the biggest accomplishment of a day.