He was tired. It was well past quitting time and he was just leaving work. He let out a sigh that came up all the way from his shoes as he dropped a bill into the hat next to the Homeless Man.
“It’s not too late you know.” The Homeless Man cocked his head at the man, stared at him with watery blue eyes nearly buried in dirt and wrinkles, voice as scratchy as a vintage record.
He paused in mid-step. “What?”
“It’s not too late.” The Homeless Man put aside his sign and took a drink from a cracked and equally dirty coffee mug.
He was annoyed. “For what? For what is it not too late?”
“You know.” The Homeless Man bobbed his head up and down.
“I don’t know.”
“Yes, you do. Think about it.”
He thought for a moment and wondered why he was thinking about it. His annoyance ratcheted up a notch. “I’ve thought about it. I still don’t know what you’re talking about.” He sighed again, but this time it was less tired than exasperated.
The Homeless Man had picked up his sign again and was displaying it to the passersby as he continued the conversation. “Yes, you do.”
“I don’t, dammit.”
“You just don’t want to admit it.”
“That you regret it; that you wish you could change it.”
“But I don’t – Oh. That.” He put his hands in the pockets of his jacket and looked off down the street. After a while, he said, “Maybe.”
“Maybe I do regret it. A little. But it’s too late.”
“It isn’t. It isn’t too late.”
His face grew an expression of disdain. “How would you know?”
The Homeless Man smiled. His teeth were yellow, but plentiful. “I know all about being too late. All about it.”
He considered this, then dropped another bill into the hat. “I guess you might at that.”
“It’s not too late. Not too late for you.”
He did not smile, but one corner of his mouth did turn up a little. “I’ll give it a try.”
“Good for you,” the Homeless Man said. “You’ll see.”
“Yeah,” he replied, as he walked away. “I’ll see.”
The Homeless Man watched him as he disappeared into the evening crowd, walking a little slower. The Homeless Man grinned in satisfaction then turned to look as a woman put some coins into his hat.
She shifted her packages and handbag and started away.
“You know,” the Homeless Man said to her, “it’s not too late.”