On Sunday, I try again: I go to the craft store, where I buy coloring books better suited to crayons, then search for a box of crayons. I want to get her the biggest box, the sixty-four color set I wanted as a child that my mother refused to buy on the grounds that it was too expensive. It has a pencil sharpener on the back, though, so I choose another, smaller set, one the nurse will surely allow.
I walk from the craft store to the supermarket in hopes of finding some magazines for her. A woman sits on the steps outside, and as I pass, she asks me for fifty cents for a cup of coffee. I tell her I don’t carry cash, which sounds like a lie but isn’t. Inside, the lines are long, and I’m anxious to deliver the crayons and coloring books, so I decide against the magazines.
Instead, I stop at the Starbucks stand, which has no line, and buy a five dollar gift card.
Walking back to my car, I pass the woman on the steps again, and hand her the gift card. I never carry cash, I say, but I’d like to buy you a cup of coffee all the same.
She looks at me and says thank you, but we don’t connect; the truth of the matter is, I don’t want to know why she’s on those stairs any more than I want to tell her why I am.