The first time we met, you spent too long deliberating on what to eat. I stood in line, directly behind you in the almost empty 24 hours Chinese place and offered, “The dumpling soup here is good, if you have yet to decide.” You were startled, of course, we were not in the part of town where people talk to each other. You told me later that you were surprised, because I was kind, because you were anxious, because you really could not make up your mind. But I hadn’t spoken out of kindness. It was 9pm at night, I was exhausted and still waiting in line because my server wage did not afford me the luxury of getting my food delivered to me, and you were there, taking up time I did not have to spare. It was not kindness, just self-interest, you misunderstood my intent.
The next time I met you, you placed your order of dumpling soup on the table I was sat at without asking, smiling like I knew you, and took a seat. You took my silence as consent and introduced yourself, demanding I do the same with your endless probing. I did not speak a word, figured you’d take a hint and let me eat in peace. But this was not the case, you were enamoured with yourself, you could go on forever talking. It did not seem to bother you that I did not care, so I let you ramble on, not a single word registering in my head. I finished my meal, picked up my tray and left.
The third time I met you was a month later. I had gotten off work later than usual and was starving. I found you drunk and retching at the sidewalk of the entrance to the Chinese place. Nothing in me wanted to help you, but we were not in the good part of town, and I did not want to wonder if you made it through the night safe. So I helped you up, and brought you back to my place. I did not have a couch, so I left you on the floor with some water and went to bed. It was summer, you would not freeze, and this floor was better than the sidewalk at the very least.
You were gone the next morning, with hardly a trace that you’d even been at my home just hours prior. You did not leave a note, I really did not care. I had taken you home only to ease my conscience, in case you wound up on the news dead the next day.
Maybe I should not have bothered, because I saw you for the last time the following day: you had wound up on the news dead anyway. Something about some scuffle, something about some men, I did not care for the details but I found myself still mourning your death. Not because you were a friend, but because you’d seemed like the type, who would make it out of here someday.