Swinging his arms freely, his body driven forward by an almost childlike carelessness, the student made his way across the street. The sun laughed in his face; the simplicity of the task ahead of him – visiting the local postbox in order to mail some letters – added to his light-heartedness. A cat crawled out from under a parked car to greet him, begging for attention with a couple of heartfelt miaows. The attempt was not in vain. A couple of strokes on the head and a few terms of endearment – not bad, the cat must have thought, from a stranger.
While the cat felt no need to part with the student, the latter, with a slight pang of conscience, soon carried on across the street. There he could already see the postbox, located just past the supermarket, bright red in the sunlight and partially blocked by the figure of a woman. He noticed her only superficially, absentmindedly, so that, as he approached, her effort to ask him something was not immediately effective. Repeating her question, it turned out that she wanted to sell a newspaper. She was homeless. “I’m very sorry but I have no cash”, the student muttered apologetically. It was true, he carried only a card in his wallet, no change. Feeling sympathy for the woman but unable to meet her demand, he stood frozen for a moment. Unsure whether the conversation had ended, and embarrassed that she was still looking at him intently, he suddenly remembered his letters. He clumsily reached into his bag and pulled them out, relieved at the opportunity to avert his eyes.
“I’m going through a really difficulty time right now, do you have anything to spare? For food?” He looked at her shyly. Her rough face did not belie her hardships. “I’m very sorry”, he mumbled once more. A long silence ensued, the woman looking around despondently, the student blindly pushing his letters through the slots. The supermarket doors opened and out walked an indistinct man. The woman posed her question anew, facing rejection once more. Meanwhile, the student had disposed of the letters and hesitantly walked away, as if restrained by something – past the woman, past the supermarket.
The feelings that had rushed through him, imprecise but passionate, at the postbox quickly culminated into a thought. He would go into the supermarket, make his way to the counter and, using his card, ask if he could make a transaction so as to receive a small sum in cash. This sum he would pass on to the woman. A warm sensation swept through his body as he marched through the sliding doors. After waiting his turn with goodhearted impatience, he made his request to the young man at the counter. “I’m sorry, we cannot do that, we are not a bank.”
Not knowing what to reply, he abruptly walked home, walked home feverishly, as if relocating the activity of his mind to his legs.