"Can anyone spare some change?"
I heard his words after he spoke them. I heard his words through the music coming from my earbuds and the anger running through my mind after my noon meeting. I'd already passed him and was about to start my ascent from the 33rd Street Station when I heard his words and stopped walking.
I scraped the bottom of my purse with my fingers to collect the coins I'd casually dropped inside at some point. I walked back five steps and tossed what I'd found in a paper cup on the ground. I began to walk away.
"Thank you. It's too bad you missed my performance."
I looked back at the man sitting on the ground behind the cup.
"Was there a performance?" I asked.
"Yes. Do you want to hear a poem?"
I said sure, and he recited "The Artist," a rhyming verse about a man who wanted to be a sculptor until he learned he was a poet.
"Did you write that," I asked, smiling.
"I did. Do you want to hear another?"
I said sure, and he recited "The Struggle," a rhyming verse about a struggle or something that I couldn't quite hear through the train arrivals being announced on the subway station speakers. He lamented having to compete with them.
I thanked him, gave him a dollar, and walked the five steps back to the stairs.
"Thank you. I'm surprised you even stopped."
I turned back. "What's your name?" I asked.
"Dan Bernstein," he told me. "Or Dan B. because I can't escape being Jewish with a name like Bernstein."
He told me how he didn't expect to get here. How he is disabled and needs back surgery. How sometimes God throws you a curveball.
I realized that I'd stopped feeling angry.
He plans to write a book - an autobiography - someday. I plan to keep my eyes peeled for Dan B on the shelves.