Sabrina Reyes-Peters

For I Was Hungry

Outside the library the other day...

I lifted my head
toward the sound of the word,
seated on the curb,
my lunch on my lap,
my feet on the sidewalk,
a question in my eyes.

"Can I have some breadcrumbs?"
He gestured toward the bag at my feet,
obviously having missed a beat.

"I don't have any breadcrumbs", I said with a clip.

"Can I have a pinch of chips?"

I ripped open the bag,
and dipped my hand with a nag;
wondering as my fingers touched
the roughness of the ground corn,
with a question so careworn:
"are my hands clean enough?"

I scooped up as much as I could hold in one hand,
and carefully deposited it into the hand. of the hungry stranger.
"Oh, thank you!"

He walks away and I carry on,
I awkwardly assemble my salad along. with hard boiled eggs.

Five minutes pass; he is back in a cinch.
"Can I have just a pinch,
maybe three more chips?"

I dip my hand in the bag again,
bringing out with precisely three chips.

I finish assembling,
and begin eating after he walks away again.

About halfway through, I hear, "Oh, that looks good."

He squats, and points to my salad, "Can I have a piece of lettuce?" His fingers ready to pluck a piece
of lettuce,
even after I had put the fork in my mouth,
and back in the salad.

"No. But..." As he starts to walk away I try to catch his attention. "Do you like cheese?"

He returns.

I hold out a small tray of cheese, tomatoes, and olives originally set aside for the lettuce.
"You can have this."

He takes it and offers it back to me.
"Do you want a pinch?"

"No, I'm fine. Thank you."

I go back to my salad, finishing in silence. Then when I dip my hand into my chips, I wonder if the stranger got enough to eat.