Candy Man

There is a little candy store on West 23rd Street that doesn’t look like it can hold more than eight people at once without those eight people becoming more intimate with one another than they’d ever really wanted. Not that it matters how many people it can accommodate, because until the other day, I’d never seen any customers in there at all. And that day, there were only two.
There is a little man who sits behind the counter in the back of the store. He doesn’t look like he blinks or moves around much. He just looks sad, gray, and lonely. Every time I pass by, I think he is sitting there wondering why no one comes into his little store. I imagine him saying, quietly and softly, inside his head, “Please buy my candy.”
I couldn’t see his face the day when there were two other people in his store. I’d like to think his face was bright when they politely and respectfully asked for a handful of every different candy he had available for sale. I’d like to think they bought bags and bags of candy. I’d like to think the candy was fresh and colorful and he and his customers exchanged pleasant conversation, and that the customers promised to come back again because he had such a nice little store and was such a nice little man.
But I passed by the way I always do, barely able to look at him or his store longer than it took to see that there were finally people in there. I didn’t want to be there if the customers walked out empty-handed. I didn’t want to be there when the door opened and I could see the little man inside without the barrier of glass separating him from my glance. I didn’t want to see his deep, sad eyes pleading with me, “Please buy my candy.”
On Monday, I’m not going to just pass. I’m going to go into his store and buy something. I could use colorful jellybeans for the candy dish in my living room. And for once I’m not going to think that my one purchase will thrill him so much that he’ll begin to rely on me the way a wingless bird relies on the kind old lady who feeds him every day. Because what will happen if one day that lady isn’t there to help, and the bird dies of starvation?
Hopefully I’m just going to think that the little man will be as sweet as his candy and that eventually he’ll know me by name. And when I pass by on a non-candy-buying day, I’ll be able to cheerfully wave to him because I know that I’ve finally entered his world and bought his candy. Fresh, happy, colorful candy.
(And everyone will live happily ever after.)