We’d stopped in an all-night deli underneath the F line for sandwiches near the end of a long night on the road. I’d ordered a chicken cutlet on a roll with lettuce and mayo. No tomatoes, I said, each time the man behind the counter had asked me if I wanted them. The sandwich arrived with tomatoes and cheese. I ate it anyway.
There was a couple seated across from each other at a table in the deli. They didn’t say a word to one another. He had a solemn expression; she wore a warm smile. They stared into each other’s eyes.
I looked over at them often as I ate my sandwich and always found them locked in the same position.
It might have been a staring contest. I couldn’t tell who was winning. Soon, I’d stopped stealing quick glances and started staring at the both of them. They didn’t notice me.
Neither flinched. I stood to leave but kept watching them as I did. As I passed by, she took her eyes off her rival and looked at me. Her warm expression remained. I looked away hoping I hadn’t influenced the outcome.
I was in a Dunkin Donuts parking lot when a woman approached me. She had a little girl, her daughter, in tow.
The woman looked upset. She told me she just got mugged and had called the cops and asked for a ride to a nearby supermarket.
I probably wouldn’t have done it of she wasn’t with a child. The little girl, Joanna, sat buckled into the back seat. “You have a chicken,” she said, referring to my rubber chicken mascot/good luck charm I keep in the car. “The cops better not see that I’m not in a car seat, they’ll give us a ticket,” she warned.
The mother rattled on about the mugging. She said she was hit over the head, attacked from behind. I asked Joanna if she was alright. “I’m ok, mister,” she said.
The mother’s story was a jumble of facts. She was accosted by a group of four about a quarter mile away. She’d just gotten off the bus when it happened and her car and house keys and wallet were stolen, but she still had a bag with her cell phone in it.
By the time we approached the supermarket, I was pretty sure I was lied to. The mother asked me for five dollars. I told her I didn’t have any cash. “Two dollars?” she countered.
I pulled over in front of the supermarket. The woman said “God bless you” as she exited. I looked over my shoulder and said good night to the kid in the back. “Thank you, mister,” she said. “I like your chicken.” And the two of them scampered into the store.