“Hungry Jew”

“No Jew should go hungry,” I say as I hand Eric four quarters and point at the scrawled “Hungry Jew” sign propped up by his feet.
He thanks me profusely, and smiles with his entire face. Blue eyes, decent teeth. Messy dark brown hair spilling out from beneath a baseball cap. Navy blue sweatpants, zipper sweatshirt, and sneakers.
“Kosher Food Needed,” his second sign says.
The signs are why I stopped in my tracks at the corner of 19th Street and Fifth Avenue. The decent conversation is why I stayed for about half an hour. We have a lot in common, Eric and I, aside from being Jewish. Wandering Jews.
He loves my hair.
“It did come out good today, didn’t it,” I say with a laugh. “But it could use highlights, don’t you think?”
“It’s beautiful the way it is,” he says. “You are absolutely gorgeous.”
He hopes the man in my life treats me like a princess. I tell him he does. He tells me I deserve it, that he would treat me like a queen too if he were able.
He can’t believe that not only did I stop to give him a dollar but that I am staying to talk to him for as long as I am.
We talk about quite a lot in a half hour. We talk about how obnoxious people are. How people are shallow and selfish. We talk about Mayor Bloomberg and agree that his voice grates on our nerves.
He wants to have coffee with me. I tell him I’ll pass by again sometime this week and bring him coffee. We can talk again sometime soon. I’m on Fifth Avenue a lot.
“No,” he says. “I’ll buy you coffee. If I’m lucky, you’ll sit with me on a bench and talk to me again.”
I want to believe him. I want to think he really is down on his luck. I want to believe him when he tells me he is a songwriter and has a CD. I want to believe him when he tells me he has been on the radio in Alabama, where he is from, and where he hopes to return once he gets enough money for a bus ticket home.
I want to believe him, but I don’t know if I do. I think I do. He tells me that in 1984, in Malibu, California, he woke up and found Paul Newman giving him a blowjob. I even want to believe that.