The Shame of Physical Contact by Phil McNulty

I saw him on the way into the store.
Crosslegged on the floor, cardboard sign.
Two children. No money.
 
We shopped for unimportant things
beer, fruit, batteries for the camera.
Talked about the lunch we’d had,
White Rioja and salmon at midday.
 
He was still there when we left.
‘Fifty cents,' he said hopefully.
'No. But you can spend twenty euros
in the store,' I said.
 
He got to his feet and walked lightly,
looking back to make sure I was there.
I waited by the door.
What if he chose razors or toothpaste? Sellable things.
 
There were only minutes of mean mindedness.
He grinned widely, piling food on the belt.
A loaf of bread, a full chicken, bacon, biscuits, a carton of milk.
I stepped over and paid.
 
He grabbed my arm trying to kiss my hand.
I left too quickly.
On this occasion,
it was harder to give than to receive.