I saw Mr. Pitt everyday during my lunch break in the park. I was on one bench by the fountain, he was across the small plaza next to the playground. I called him Mr. Pitt because the first time I saw him he was wearing a University of Pittsburgh sweatshirt with the big blue letters “PITT” across the front. I never actually knew his real name. But Mr. Pitt seemed fitting because he wore it everyday in the colder months, because it was all he had.
Because Mr. Pitt was homeless.
We almost never talked to each other. We became friendly strangers once I realized the park was his latest place to panhandle; I would give a waive from across the plaza when he saw me and made eye contact, and he would waive back. Once I think he said something about the weather, but I never said anything back.
I never said anything back. Ever.
Not even on the day he walked over to me with a smile and a paper bag in his hand. I was nervous, of course, as a woman begin approached by a strange man. Plus homeless people are sometimes mentally unstable, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I saw right away the bag didn’t have booze in it, so that made me feel a little better. But then he held it out to me, and I just sat there with my sandwich in my hands, mid-bite, not sure what to do or say.
After a minute of him holding that bag out to me, he gave a small laugh, then set the bag down on the bench down beside me. He looked at me for a moment and cocked his head to the side, studying me. I’ll admit it was uncomfortable. Then he nodded, looking satisfied about something.
“Yes, you are definitely the next one,” Mr. Pitt said. I realized at that moment that he was British or Australian or something like that. He pointed at the bag. “I’m done with it, it’s yours now.”
He waited for me to say something. I didn’t. So he just shrugged, turned around, suddenly leapt into the air, turned into a mourning dove, and flew away out of the park.
Hand to God, it happened. And my life has never been the same after that.
(The word prompt today was “Park.”)