He woke in the middle of the night
to talk about his troubled conscience.
Twenty-one dollars in his pocket
that didn’t belong to him.
Spotted by a stock clerk on the floor of the deli
where he stood in line waiting to pay for his coffee.
He had picked up the money,
both of them thinking it had fallen from his wallet.
Then, counting his money, he realized it wasn’t his.
And he kept it.
I, having been on both sides of a twenty gone astray,
have learned to smile when I find one
and not cry when I lose one.
I’m not equipped to deal with the event
as a moral test.
The simple, absolute issue:
It’s not mine.
I should not have it.
What should he have done?
Held up a twenty in a New York deli
and asked if anyone had lost it?
Turned it in to the cashier to hold
in the hope that its owner might return to claim it?
Re-living the scenario with him,
I am unable to suggest a solution.
I have allowed my own honesty
to be compromised in too many ways.
Have made too many concessions to daily life,
too many rationalizations
for less than noble behavior.
I can’t believe I’m discussing this with someone
at 3 AM,
not to mention discussing it at all.
Seeing him grapple with his honesty
causes me to examine my own.
I’m not sure where I stand.
But I did think about it.
I guess you could even say I lost sleep over it.


©Ellen Azorin