Early childhood was chaotic; my brother and I endured a lot of abuse. Having one another helped. It was sort of: ‘Hey, at least there’s another human with me.’ We’ve handled our trauma differently over the years.
My brother doesn’t trust authority, and he’s been arrested in seven different states. It usually involves some sort of power struggle with police. His last altercation was in Texas, and it landed him in solitary confinement for 18 months.
It couldn’t have come at a worse time. Law school was kicking my ass. I was living off student loans, so I didn’t have the cash to go visit him as often as I wanted. I was drinking a lot.
On weekend nights I’d stumble out of the subway at 3 AM or 4 AM, after the bars had closed. And Abe, my coffee cart guy, would be outside my station– setting up for the day. He’d talk shit to me before giving me a bagel and water. Then he’d walk me to my building to make sure I got home safe.
He was my late-night safeguard in addition to my morning barista. The 8AM line was long, so we had a cheat system. I’d send him a text when I was leaving my place, and he’d have a paper bag with my food and coffee waiting for me inside the cart window.
On Saturdays when it was slower, I’d sit on a crate behind the cart and we’d talk for hours. He became a best friend. He introduced me to his wife and children. I learned that his cart supports some of his family back in Egypt, and that’s why he hadn’t taken a day off in almost twenty years.
I told him about my family too. Mainly I talked about my brother’s incarceration. Others advised me to cut him off, but never Abe. He told me not to give up on my family.
During one of our Saturday conversations, I mentioned that I couldn’t afford to go see my brother. I was careful how I phrased it, because I didn’t want Abe to think I was asking for help.
But the following Monday morning when I grabbed my paper bag from inside the window, there was another bag rolled up inside. I thought it may be a chocolate croissant that he’d sneak in sometimes, but it was $3000.
I said, ‘Abe no fuckin’ way,’ but he wouldn’t take it back. ‘Pay me back whenever,’ he said. ‘And go see your brother as much as you need.’
Updated from HONY: “You can find Abe’s cart on the corner of 59th and Lexington.”
(If you wish to submit an essay (reflections on life), personal story (inspirational or humorous) or something that you witnessed that inspired you, please go HERE.)