Making my way to Keith’s Monday evening I came across a red light on Fell. Directly across from my corner was a young woman holding the hand of, presumably, her child. After traffic cleared I began to cross and noted that they did not follow suit, the light still red for us and her with a kid. Suddenly I was back on another corner some night in the past– 16th and Dolores and I’m hot, sweating, on the way to a show and most likely suffering from a weak nerves cocktail… I’m sharing space with a man and two children and the light clears– I’m out in the street like a shot. “Is it really worth three seconds?” is rhetorically asked, indignant with just a light flavour of aggression. Three seconds being, of course, the amount remaining on the crossing indicator for 16th. I didn’t bother turning around– what, I’m gonna pick a fight with some guy and two kids over that?

It’s the children that he’s concerned about, or more specifically their penchant for picking up bad habits quicker than a cold. I even managed to feel guilty for showcasing such errant behaviour under this obnoxious rebuke… Hadn’t made it more than halfway across Fell by the time the vision cleared and I looked up at the woman. She wasn’t sternly insisting to her child that she never do as I’d just done, nor was she preparing to pepper the air with admonishment. There was no eye contact whatsoever and I swear that the woman’s head could not have been craned any farther from me had it been broken.

Some days before I had been making my way down to Safeway which didn’t seem like such a bright idea because my body was threatening to either send fluids suddenly flooding out from my bladder or surging up through my throat. My pace was brisk and I was pretty intent on trying to control my breathing to calm various functions down while simultaneously attempting to achieve the world time record for shopping excursions. Half a block ahead I observed a gawky man shuffling slowly, pausing, looking around, shuffling forward and I began a subtle arc so as to clear his odd meandering with enough space to avoid any collision and to avoid startling him by suddenly being right behind him. Fortunately for me this landed my foot right on top of a $20 folded in half laying on the sidewalk and, using the mystical art of plucking pennies from the street without anyone noticing what a scumbag I am, scooped it up without pause.

Between the moment my eyes caught the twenty as my foot covered it to the moment I had completed my recovery I had evaluated the half block’s time I’d watched the man wander slowly down the street. By the time he had reached the point where I was passing him we were both parallel to the money and I concluded that this served as evidence enough of his innocence of littering. It honestly didn’t even occur to me that the money might be his until I had already walked on, crossed a street and was halfway across another. God knows how long he’d been shuffling up and down the street looking around, stopping, looking, shuffling. He didn’t look too disheveled or insane for money, but how do I ask someone if they dropped this money laying on the ground? Hey, is this your $20?

Still, before I reached Safeway I was sent back in time, further than my trip to 16th and Dolores. Years back and I’m walking down Arkansas Street one night smoking a cigarette, walking the little circles I walked. Just in deeper dark of the trees holding the streetlights back I came across a pile of personal effects– it looked like someone had emptied a wallet or purse on the sidewalk and left it. Business cards, credit cards, and a shit ton of money– not a $20 but a stack of them. This seemed very exciting to me, but I kept looking through the cards until I found the ID. The address was, of course, right next to where I was crouched digging through the riches.

I could see what must have happened– some guy barely gets out of a cab after a night of life and loses everything in between the curb and his gate. Maybe his excesses deserve retribution but I’m not playing God tonight– I gather all of the shit and reach through the bars of the gate so I can drop it all in the newspaper mailbox. It’s three in the morning and I’m not gonna ring any doorbells.

The problem being, of course, why would anyone look for their lost wallet contents and money in the newspaper mailbox which is probably never used? So when I’m walking to work the next day I make a point to pass the house again and this time I ring the doorbell. I don’t want to be doing this, I don’t want to talk to anyone and I don’t want to look like some junkie expecting rewards. A woman answers, probably not much older then I am, and the fact that I have no business ringing the doorbell is clear on her face. But I explain why I’m there and she pulls everything out of the hiding place as I start to leave. “Wow, good karma!” she says through the bars. Before I can stop myself I reply,”yeah, but that’s for after you’re dead.” and continue on my way, but now I’m biting my tongue. It was the worst thing I could have said because now it sounds like I’m bitter for not being offered a reward. That still bugs me when I find myself thinking about it.

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