Ahmed walked through the steel and glass canyon. He shivered, and his chest tightened as the cold afternoon breeze cut through his blazer. Ahmed distanced himself from the mass of humanity crossing the street.
Two blocks later, he arrived at the familiar breezeway and hurried to an unoccupied table in the empty plaza. Ahmed closed his eyes and let the sun warm his cold face. A chair slid from the other side of the table, and a dank smell wafted in the air. Ahmed opened his eyes. Before him sat a man in dirty clothes, and a threadbare overcoat. The stranger smiled and stuck out his crusty hand.
“Hi, people call me George. Sorry if I disturbed you. I just needed to sit a spell.”
Ahmed kept his cold hands in his pockets. “I don’t want to offend you, but there are lots of other tables.”
George pulled back his hand, “I see.”
Ahmed felt his face flush and quickly interjected, “It’s nothing personal, I came here to be alone for a few minutes.”
George nodded and said, “Isn’t that a coincidence, I used to come here seeking solitude myself.”
“But not today.”
“I do as I please. Look, I used to look miserable like you. I bet it’s your job and maybe the family.” George held up his hand, “No, you don’t have to answer, I can see it in your face. Well, I got tired of everything, too, and I left it all behind. Now I live free and do what I want.”
Ahmed leaned forward, “Did you have a family?”
George stared blankly up into the sky. “I used to. The pressures at my job and home; I just couldn’t deal with it anymore. So, I quit work and walked out. My wife filed for divorce after I didn’t come back home. It took the papers a while to find me.”
George’s hollow eyes looked into Ahmed’s, “I have to admit, I do miss the kids. Eventually, my wife remarried, so the girls got a new dad.” George shrugged, “Nobody seems to miss me.”
“I’m not sure I want to walk out on everyone and everything.”
George waved him off, “Give it time, you will.”
Ahmed stood up, “I appreciate the visit. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll head back to work.”
“That’s the spirit. Before you go, any chance you can give a fella a couple of bucks for his advice?”
Ahmed pulled out a twenty and handed it to George. They shook hands, and Ahmed left, determined never to return.