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the-drifter150 THE DRIFTER

(B.B.'s JAZZ, BLUES & SOUPS, Downtown St Louis)

A young guy sat alone at a table near the stage, his worn bag propped up next to him. Meanwhile, a young couple sat at the bar discussing him. One of girl’s friends – a waitress - discovered that the drifter’s girlfriend had dumped him in New York a few weeks earlier; now he was walking to Phoenix. “Apparently he only has seven dollars,” she told her boyfriend, “and he’s spending that on beer.” Her boyfriend looked at her boldly. They were back together after a rough hiatus. Being reunited had brought with it a tipsy, exciting delirium, tainted slightly by the sour circumstances that had broken them apart. Was the scruffy guy crazy? Of course: Who else would walk cross-country in the middle of winter? “I want to talk to him.” “Don’t.” she said, “Leave him alone,” but her boyfriend had already pushed away from the bar. A moment later, standing before the drifter: “On your way west?” “Yeah.” “Walking?” “Uh-huh.” He said something else that the boyfriend couldn’t understand over the din. He nodded in feigned acknowledgement, wandered back to the bar. Yeah, he was a little crazy alright: “You could see it in his eyes.” But the boyfriend’s compassion awakened. What would the drifter do? There was a homeless shelter nearby, but it had closed hours ago. It was cold out. Very cold. The couple debated over the drifter’s options, philosophized about the virtues and dangers of helping needy strangers. “We should leave some money for him. So he can get a room somewhere,” he suggested. “Won’t he drink it?” “Maybe. But what if we leave it with the doorman? He won’t get it until he leaves.” The couple shared a moment. Their feelings for each other had now spilled outward; the world was its beneficiary.