“Have you got any smaller bills, ma’am?” asked the worn man behind the counter.
The words came out cold. He grimaced as the elderly woman pulled out a 50. She probably didn’t hear him, and she certainly wasn’t the first, he thought.
Struggling not to bite his tongue, he told her that her total was $3.12, while looking down for a moment, to double check the dim display atop the cashier. The shadows on his face displayed a decade of running a one man business, always taking its toll on his hope and youth. A trait that didn’t go unnoticed.
The woman saw his eyes contract as she went to break her large bill to pay for her coffee and muffin. She also noticed that he was younger than he appeared. At first glance, he could easily pass for 40, but for some reason, from the way his eyes reacted, she knew he was hardly into his 30s. It was so defenseless, she thought.
“Oh no, dear. I know I’ve got some ones here somewhere. Been meaning to use them for the past few weeks,” she said, stuffing her frail hand into her large purse. “At 88, you don’t get out too often,” she added, trying to lighten the mood as she dug around, and scooped up five singles she had let fall to the bottom.
The man’s pain, so evident a few moments ago, was gone. He didn’t know why, but it dawned on him that this woman was not so different from himself. He imagined her lonely too. Not to be insulting, but to find relief. A feeling he hadn’t felt in weeks. Months, really.
She handed him four of the five singles, waited for her change, and left the last in the tips jar. She said nothing and simply walked out the door. Never to be seen again.
He couldn’t help but like her. Her gift was more than expected, but her look as she gave it convinced him that maybe she was thinking what he was. That they’re both lonely. He grabbed his tip, the first of the day, and muttered that it was lucky.
And that’s when Ones came to his senses.