The punk’s left leg, from the knee to the black high-top sneaker, is made of a shiny metal prosthesis. His right leg is covered in a fresh white cast. He’s using crutches and winces with each step. He addresses the sedate group, flatly.
“This is the most humiliating thing I’ve ever done. I lost my left leg. And this week, I broke my right leg. I don’t have any money. I need Ace bandages, pain medication, and food. When I get off the train, I need to take a taxi to my house because I don’t think I’ll make it if I walk. I’m asking you, begging you, to give me money.”
He stops, leans both crutches against a center pole. He removes his prosthesis, showing the crowd his stump—covered in a bloody, torn Ace bandage. He reattaches the prosthesis, and begins a belabored lap around the train to collect his charity. But nobody gives.
One by one, each of the three or four dozen train riders—male, female, old, young, well dressed, poorly dressed, Mexican, Chinese, Wasp, Greek—diverts their eyes as the man waves his cup expectantly across their laps. Finally, defeated, he takes a seat at the end of the car.
“This ain’t a fun life,” he says, shaking his head disapprovingly. “I can assure you.” The guilt washes over me, and as I try to catch the eyes of my complicit neighbors, I feel theirs, too.
By the time we reach
She has a beautiful, resounding voice. She’s singing an aria; sounds Italian to me. She’s making her way, slowly, through the crowd, holding her trendy newsboy cap upside-down to receive contributions.
She nods politely to the passengers as, one by one, the vast majority give her $1, $5, even $10 bills.
She gets off two stops later, still singing. I look around for the punk, but he's already gone.