Last Saturday, after plans with friends fell through, Paul and I went to a consolation dinner at Macaroni Grill, which is currently featuring meatballs – three different versions of giant meatballs.
I ordered the Bolognese and when it arrived, my first thought was of one of my student aides from two years ago, a lovely girl named Rebel, who earned a full-ride scholarship to play softball. I looked down at the thing and I thought, wonder how far outta the park Rebel could bat this thing?
It was nestled in about a pound of spaghetti, blanketed with melted cheese, and the half portion I managed before my stomach cried “UNCLE!” was delicious. Our cheerful waitress wrapped up the other half, Paul rescued it off the table as I am forever getting and forgetting to-go boxes, and we waddled out the door.
Just as we stepped off the curb to the parking lot, a man smoking a cigarette on the bench out front called to us, “Would you have any food you could spare?”
To our shame, we hesitated; Paul, standing frozen with a meatball he considered not his meatball to give away; me, thinking that meatball is delicious, and was going to be my lunch come Monday.
“I’m sorry I asked,” said the man. The face under the baseball cap was tired. He was clean, and neatly dressed in old-looking clothes, but there was something worn down about him. He was in a bad enough place to be begging left-overs from Macaroni Grill’s departing customers. What he said snapped me out of my hesitation and, thinking of the refrigerator full of food at home, I took the container from Paul and handed it to the man.
And then he was gone. We turned around and he was gone.
In the car, Paul said, “That was nice of you.”
“We are our brothers’ keepers, right?”
I didn’t feel particularly nice. Never considering the deliciousness of the meatball, to have given it without hesitation would have been nice, but I will keep working on that, one meatball at a time.