The shirt was white with green stripes. It was old; I was wearing it in a photograph that appeared in the New York Times on
I thought I could take it off, give it to him, and run home for a new shirt, but I felt that despite the frequent presence of shirtless men in the neighborhood, an old man without a shirt on a cold rainy day would be taken for psychotic and sent to
"Before you go, can I have a dollar?" asked a second beggar. I gave a dollar to beggar #2 and told beggar #1 not to go away. I went home, changed, and carried the shirt back to the park. Beggar #1 was nowhere to be seen. I asked beggar #2, who was still there, where I could find him. He led me to a bench in the park where beggar #1 was sitting next to a handsome young red-headed man.
"Can you give me a dollar?" asked beggar #2.
"I gave you a dollar ten minutes ago," I said.
I gave beggar #1 the shirt. "Stay with me. I want to be your friend forever." He pointed to the red-headed man. "Give him a dollar. He's a poor Jew."
The red-headed man may well have been a Jew, as so many redheads are, but he didn't look the slightest bit needy. He and I simultaneously smiled at each other, shook hands, and said "Glad to meet you."
I tried to leave. Beggar #1 grabbed me and said "I don't want to lose you. Give me your card."
"I don't have a card," I said. I tried to go. He held me. I pulled loose and walked away rapidly.
I hope he enjoyed the shirt.
This essay appeared in And Then, Volume 11, 2003