I am exiting the freeway on an off ramp that's always stacked up enough for two traffic light cycles to pass. The exit curves around so that as I wait in line to approach the signal I cannot see the intersection until I round the bend. I am not in a hurry and turn up the Christmas tunes on my stereo. Stevie Nicks' smokey voice is singing "Silent Night". I turn the volume up even louder.
Sunset is beginning and the clouds are pinkish orange against the blue sky. I roll down my tinted window to see them more clearly and the cold bites my nose. I close the window and rev up the heater. Still waiting in the line of cars, I start wondering where everyone is going. I am behind a black SUV with three silhouettes in the back seat bobbing and swaying to music, I presume.
I turn the bend and see a man standing on the island at the traffic light, which has turned red again. He holds a sign that says, "Hungry - PLEASE HELP - god bless." He is black, wears gray sweatpants and a yellow t-shirt with short sleeves and a faded graphic. I think he is barefoot but as I look closer I see he wears flip flops. The car ahead of me rolls to a stop for the light and is now next to the man. There is movement inside the car. The passenger window lowers and an arm sticks out holding a burger or sandwich wrapped in paper. The man puts his sign down and walks toward the food, smiling.
Suddenly the arm yanks downward and lobs the burger high into the air. It lands in the brush, about 20 feet from the off ramp. I hear boys' laughter. The man's smile disappears. The light turns green. The SUV speeds off. A boy yells, "Go fetch, man!" from an open window. The car behind me honks. I am frozen, watching the man who crosses the divider and limps into the brush.