"Will You Be My Valetine Day Date?"bySusanJillParker©
This is a Valentine's Day contest story. Please give me the support of your vote.
Memories from the past, this is a true recount of a man who tries to pick up a woman at McDonald's as his sexy Valentine's Day date.
After losing everything in a flood, there was a time when Susan Jill Parker was homeless, sleeping at a shelter, and eating at a mission. Not proud of it, but better than living in a shelter, for nearly the past four years, she's been squatting in the spare bedroom offered to her by a kind and elderly, albeit crazy Mennonite woman named Hannah. At least she has a roof over her head and food to eat most times.
Not all one-sided, she's morphed and transitioned from being her invited guest to being her unpaid maid, housekeeper, cook, home health caretaker, chauffeur, and friend. Most times a real struggle not having any money to buy the things that she needs and to do the things that she'd like to do, it's sometimes still a challenge to go through life with dignity. It's sometimes difficult watching television or a movie while knowing everyone you see has so very much while you have so very little.
Even now in this so called robust economy, more for the superrich, the top one percent, than for the middle class, there are still no jobs other than part-time, low paying jobs that offer no benefits. Even if she wanted to start all over again and take an entry level job somewhere, she no longer has a car and with the bus stop too far to walk to, she's doomed to stay where she is. Besides, if she took a job, no longer having the time to care for Hannah and thusly having no place to live, she couldn't even afford rent when working at a minimum wage job.
Yet, this story isn't about Susan Jill Parker's life now. This story is about a real and typical experience that she had with a man when she was homeless four years ago. She's had many experiences like this one, many much worse than this, but she chose to write about this specific experience because it relates to Valentine's Day.
* * * * *
Being that today was Valentine's Day, the day of love, and after having scraped up enough coinage, Susan decided to treat herself to lunch at McDonalds. Normally, as long as it wasn't too nasty, what she ate was whatever was tossed in dumpsters behind restaurants in downtown Harrisburg. Things that are still edible, healthy, and good, it's amazing the food that restaurants discard.
Sometimes when hungry enough, what some would never consider eating before, they'd eat now. Eat or die, when hungry enough, starvation sometimes dictates people to eat anything to survive. After a while getting to know the kitchen help, with her hanging out behind their restaurant backdoors, instead of her having to go dumpster diving to compete with the rats and roaches, they'd hand her something good to eat for free.
Against restaurant policies and rules in the way that employees are warned not to feed stray cats and dogs, she knew that they only handed her food because she was pretty, albeit pretty dirty too. Knowing they could get in trouble, even fired, she knew they only gave her food because they wanted something from her in return. Yet, if she could get what she needed to survive by using her good looks and her shapely body, what's so wrong with that?
Movie stars and celebrities do that their entire careers. Powerful politicians exchange their influence for favors and for money all the time. A feel of her big tits for a cup of a coffee and a donut, not only seemed like a fair trade but also sounded good to her at the time when she was dying for a cup of coffee and something good to eat.
It would have been worse if she had been directly responsible for her homelessness, but she wasn't directly responsible for her homelessness. It would have been worse if she was homeless because she was a drunk or on drugs, but she didn't drink and never took drugs. It would have been worse if she was homeless because she was mentally ill. Yet, as evidence of her surviving while living on the streets of downtown Harrisburg for six, long, cold, hard months, she still had all of her quick wits and even her sense of humor, about her.
Unfortunate circumstances after her divorce and with the recession causing her to lose her job, both attributed to her desperation and forced her to move from Boston to Pennsylvania to live with her mother. As if this was her destiny, the good Lord chose to put her in harm's way of a real disaster, the great flood of the Susquehanna River from tropical storm Lee on September 11, 2011. With no job and no money, she lost everything, including her car in one the greatest floods in Pennsylvania's history since the Johnstown flood of 1889, the New Castle flood in 1913, and Hurricane Agnes in 1972.
* * * * *
Back then, it was a big deal for Susan to come up with enough money to have a meal at McDonalds. After not eating regularly every day, even though their food never sat right with her, nonetheless this meal was a real feast and a special treat. Only, not hardly enough food to sustain her throughout the day, she knew after eating this meager meal, she'd still be hungry. At the very least, what she ate now should tie her over until she had a hot meal at the mission later today. Yet, even though she was happy finally having something to eat, there's always someone ready to ruin her good time when she just wanted to be left alone to eat her food.
A special occasion, Susan had been looking forward to celebrating her Valentine's Day by having lunch at McDonalds since yesterday. The cheapest thing on the menu that she could afford, cheeseburger, small fry, and a cup of water, she handed the clerk most of her pocket change. Better than dumpster diving, she was happy with her meager lunch. Being that she hadn't eaten since yesterday at the mission, if there was one word to describe her meal, it would certainly and appropriately be a happy meal.
No matter much what she ate, she was happy to have something to eat while being able to use the restroom before and after her meal. Their price of admission, McDonalds refuses homeless people the use of their restrooms unless they buy something to eat and/or to drink. Not strictly monitored but just in case she was hassled while using the restroom, she pocketed her receipt that came to two dollars and change. With McDonalds the only place she could buy something decent to eat, and with there not being very many public restrooms available to the homeless, she couldn't eat anywhere for two dollars and change.
"Happy Valentine's Day to me," she said just as a stranger walked over to her table.
Just as she was about to take the first bite of her food, just what she needed, the sexual attraction of yet another weirdo. She looked up at him and gave him a look that would make most men leave. She looked from him to look at the food on his tray. Susan assumed he had a quarter pounder or a Big Mac being that it was in a box instead of wrapped in paper as was her hamburger.
"Hi," said the man staring down at her while holding his lunch, a Big Mac, large fries, a cup of coffee, a cup of water, and a piece of apple pie.
With her not wearing any makeup and embarrassed by her messy hair, nonetheless her disheveled appearance, he looked down at her and smiled. Sensing she was unintentionally giving him a down blouse view of her long line of cleavage and her dirty bra, she put a hand to close the top of her blouse and to deny him any more free looks. Normally no longer bothering her to give any man a free look of her cleavage and bra, when she was wearing a bra, with her not wanting to entice and/or encourage him, this man just seemed weird. With her street smarts and her inherent ability to sense things about people, with him setting off her alarm alert, he looked like trouble.
"Hi," she said holding her burger in her hands while staring up at the man who forestalled her from taking a first bite of her cheeseburger.
As if she was a beat cop noting the description of a perpetrator of a potential and probable crime, he was a man in his 40's of average height, about 5'9" tall, and weighing about 160 pounds with dark brown hair, and brown eyes. She looked up at him with impatient confusion. She just wanted to be left alone to eat her lousy, God damn burger. Normally with everyone minding their own business and keeping to themselves, in the months she's been frequenting this restaurant, whenever she could afford it, just as she doesn't talk to anyone, no one talks to her. Sometimes, when it was really cold and she had no money, with her desperate enough to go to the counter to ask, the manager would give her a free cup of coffee, as long as she drank it outside.
"Happy Valentine's Day," he said.
Acting as if he knew her, he beamed a big, toothy smile.
"Happy Valentine's Day to you too," she said before dismissing him by not looking at him for her to focus more on her food than on him and by taking a bite of her burger.
She hoped he'd go away. When she looked up again, she hoped he'd be gone. Yet, still standing there, he watched her chewing her food. With him standing over her and looking down at her, she got the creeps. She gave him a little smile before a look of sadness crossed her face that he dared remind her that today was Valentine's Day, the day of love, and that was now just another day of heartache and loneliness to her.
He reminded her that she was alone with no one there to help her, to love her, and to wish her a Happy Valentine's Day but for this strange stranger. Suddenly a barrage of all of the Valentine's Days she ever had flashed through her mind as if a video on superfast speed. Being that this was her personal and private Valentine's Day celebration, she knew it was Valentine's Day but for a strange man to remind her of the holiday by wishing her a Happy Valentine's Day didn't sit right with her. Always being bothered and hassled by strange men when collecting cans and bottles in back alleys, she didn't want to be bothered by yet another strange man while eating her lunch in McDonalds.
After divorcing her ex and losing her job, she left Boston to live with her mother. Then, after losing everything in a flood and with her whore of a mother taking off with yet another man, she never thought she'd be homeless. Taking the basic necessities of life for granted, she never thought feeding herself, keeping herself warm and hydrated with enough liquids, finding a bathroom, finding a place to sleep at night, and keeping herself safe would be her biggest challenges and struggles. This is America after all, isn't it? The land of excess and the land where we have plenty enough to help others in other countries when we can't even employ, feed, and house our own citizens.
'God bless fucking America,' is what she always said before closing her eyes for the night.
Whenever she watched the news, she hated seeing those rich assholes ringing the bell at the close of Wall Street's business for the day. With all the bailout money that Bush and Paulson gave to banks and insurance companies, the least that banks and insurance can do as an appreciative payback is to offer a free continental breakfast to all the now homeless folks who they displaced after foreclosing on their homes. Yet, with the passage of time and with business as usual, seemingly all of that is forgotten.
All of that is in the past, ancient history, and never to be revisited again. If only politicians would help people by giving anyone who wants to work a good paying job, she'd have no complaint. Only they're all too busy soliciting campaign donations, feathering their own nest, and engaging in party politics than doing what they were voted into office to do, to represent all Americans and not just a special few.
* * * * *
It's been years since she's had the company of a man on Valentine's Day or on any day since her divorce for that matter. Now with the disheveled condition she was in, her dirty clothes, her messy hair, and with her imagining that she was could smell herself, the last thing she wanted was the company of a man. What she'd prefer is a hot bath and a cup of hot, black coffee instead of the cup of warm water that she had sitting in front of her. What she'd prefer is eating what he was about to eat instead of the flat, tasteless burger that she was eating.
"May I join you?"
In the way she was excited about having a meager meal at McDonalds, as if he was really pleased to celebrate dining with her, he looked at her with excited anticipation.
"Do I know you?"
While looking at him as if trying to place his face, she looked at him in the way she looked at all the weirdoes in Wal-Mart who routinely stared at her whenever she had enough money to buy something she needed. With a homeless woman an easy mark, strange men, weird men, abnormal, and immoral men always approached her. Seemingly with her now their any port in a storm woman and with them having a place to go home to after they've had sex with her, every day was a hurricane for her. In the way of a mail carrier, whether it was heat, cold, rain, sleet, or snow, every day she was out in the foul weather, until they opened the shelter for the night. Yet, even the mail carriers had a vehicle that they could duck inside to keep warm.
"No, I don't think we've had the pleasure of meeting," he said.
She returned to eating her burger as if she hadn't eaten in a while. She didn't have to fake her hunger or her interest in her burger for her to ignore the man still standing in front of her. She was starving. Only, instead of gobbling down her burger in three bites, she took small bites to make it last longer and to pretend that she was eating more food than what she had to eat. Besides, she needed to give her stomach time to know there was food on the way. Then, with him not taking the hint and still standing there, she lashed out at him.
"Listen, Pal," she said giving him a cold stare that made him take a step back. "I always eat alone. Besides my boyfriend is up at the counter. He's that big, black man," she said. "He'll be here any minute so you'd better scram."
She gave him a look that could melt steel.
"Oh, I thought you always ate alone," he said with a victorious grin along with a bit of an attitude.
She hated men like him, men who thought they were so smugly smart when they were just mentally twisted and insufferably annoying. Just by his immediate sarcasm, she knew he'd be a problem. He looked from her to look at the big, black man and to watch the man leave the counter to sit at another table before looking back at her. Before he could say anything about her supposed boyfriend sitting elsewhere and before he could say anything else to upset her, she verbally attacked him in the way that only a Detroit diva or a homeless woman can.
"Get lost loser. Scram," she said taking control of her situation in the way she always did and needed to do when confronted by a man in a back alley. "Fuck off weirdo," she said when he didn't leave. "Beat it. Hit the road," she said raising her voice in the way that Dustin Hoffman's character did as Ratsy Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy. In the way that he yelled, "I'm walking here," when he jaywalked in front of a New York taxi cab and was nearly hit, she yelled, "I'm eating here."
Still standing there and staring down at her, no doubt trying to look down her blouse to see what more he could see of her, he looked from her to look down at his tray. In the way he was looking at her with kindness instead of with horniness in the way that most men do, she suddenly felt bad that she had treated him so rudely.
"Here. This is for you," he said handing her his apple pie and putting it beside her when she didn't reach up her hand to accept it and take it. "Happy Valentine's Day," he said walking away.
* * * * *
She felt like such a shit for being so mean to him. Unbelievably no longer hungry, she lost her appetite for food but suddenly gained her appetite for human companionship, even if he was a strange man. She had the same reaction but opposite as if he had slapped her across the face or threw cold water in her face. Unaccustomed to receiving anyone's gesture of kindness, she looked from him to the apple pie before looking back at him walking away. She'd never waste the money to buy an apple pie when she could almost buy a second cheeseburger for the same price. Yet, now that apple pie was there sitting in front of her, she was looking forward to eating something sweet as part of her private Valentine's Day celebration now turned public.
Ashamedly and regretfully, she lost more than her possessions when she became homeless. She lost her kind nature and her humanity. Just because she's homeless, hungry, and poor shouldn't mean that she should abandon her manners. Just because she's homeless, hungry, and poor shouldn't mean that she should be meanly envious of others just because they have so much more and she has so much less. Just because she's homeless, hungry, and poor doesn't give her the right and/or the reason to be a bitch. Just because she's homeless, hungry, and poor doesn't mean that she can't show her appreciation for a kind gesture on Valentine's Day.
Suddenly, as if she was a wild animal or a feral cat, she felt guilty for being so rude to him. Suddenly, she felt like the bitchy monster that men had turned her into when living on the dangerous, dirty streets. Sometimes her mean attitude was all the protection she had to prevent someone from sexually molesting her, beating her, and/or raping her. Suddenly, she thought, with stranger things happening and with everything happening for a reason, maybe this is kismet and her destiny that they should meet on of all days but the day of love, Valentine's Day. He wasn't so terribly bad looking enough that she wouldn't give him a second glance and another chance at friendship.
Now seeing him in a different light while getting a different vibe from him, when she looked at him again, he didn't look all that bad. He almost looked normal although her definition of normal had changed dramatically and her tolerance for all things not normal had certainly skewed by her desperate living conditions. With her social skills fading along with her good looks, maybe today she should act more like the reserved lady that she is instead of the homeless bitch that she had become. Difficult to remain positive, yet maybe today is the day that something good will happen instead of something bad.
"Wait. Come back. I'm sorry. I can use the company," she said looking from him to his apple pie and back to him before giving him a sad smile. "With no one ever giving me anything, not my mother, my brothers, my ex-husband, or any of my so called friends, no one has ever given me their apple pie. Thank you," she said. "Maybe we can share it."
* * * * *
With a mere piece of apple pie so symbolic of a gesture on this day of love when others have so very much extra to buy their women perfume, candy, flowers, clothes, and jewelry, this dessert meant more to her than any of those things. When she smiled at him in the way that only Susan can do, the smile that sadness stole from her, the smile of happiness returned to his face. As if they were a couple enjoying a simple meal on Valentine's Day instead of being strangers, all it took was his small gesture of kindness for her to remember who she once was.
"That would be nice," he said. He returned her smile with his smile. "I'm Ralph," he said holding out his hand.
When she didn't offer him her hand in return he withdrew his hand. Self-conscious about her appearance, especially her hands, her hands weren't the cleanest. Even though she washed in the women's restroom with lots of soap and steamy hot water while scrubbing soap beneath her nails, her fingernails were a disaster and were caked with dirt from picking up dirty bottles and cans out of the gutter.