Every morning, David drinks his first cup of coffee with his parents. When he sits down at the table, Mother always checks to make sure he’s shaved under his chin. Most mornings, she tells him his throat is “smooth as a baby’s butt.” This embarrasses David, but he puts up with it, because he loves his mother.
Today is St. Patrick’s Day. David is wearing the bright green shirt Mother laid out for him last night. His father says, “You look nice, big guy,” as David sits down. He pats David’s shoulder before he goes outside to get the newspaper.
While David drinks his coffee, he watches his parents shuffle from the toaster to the refrigerator to the table. Sometimes they bump into each other. Then they kiss and whisper “ ’Scuse me” softly.
By the time they finally sit down, David is finished. He kisses his mother on the cheek and his father on the top of his head. He says “I love you, Pop. I love you, Mother.”
While he’s putting on his jacket, Mother asks if he has his ID and his wallet.
As usual, David answers, “Of course I do!”
As usual, Pop says, “You be careful, big guy.”
As usual, his mother says “Good-bye, honey. Have a good day.”
Then David walks to Jean and Bob’s luncheonette on the corner.
Jean and Bob are David’s friends. Every morning Bob makes David an egg sandwich. Every morning, Jean brings David his sandwich on a blue plate.
David eats his breakfast before his bus comes. He sits in the corner booth next to the window with the best view of the street. David likes to watch the people getting on and off the bus or walking up and down the street while he eats his breakfast.
This morning, Jean slides the plate in front of him. The egg is crisp around the edges, just the way he likes it. She sits down across from him, and smiles while he cuts the sandwich in half. “How’re you doing, sweetie-pie?”
David likes Jean. She has a kind face. Her blue eyes twinkle behind her glasses. He remembers that her feet have been hurting. “Did you buy your new shoes yet?”
“Next pay-day….good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise. You have a good memory, David.” Behind the counter, Bob rings a bell and shouts, “Order up!” She stands up and tugs her apron into place. “You enjoy, hon.”
David watches her walk away. David works in the mail room of a large company downtown. Some days his feet hurt, too. The company takes up many floors and David delivers mail to all of them.
David looks out the window while he eats. It’s a sunny day and the sidewalk is getting crowded. People walk up and down, talking to each other or to their cell-phones. Everyone seems to have someone to talk to.
A lot of people are wearing green.
David looks down at his shirt. He checks to make sure he has not gotten egg on it. His shirt is the same bright green as the shamrocks on the St. Patrick’s Day card his sister, Clara, sent from California.
Betty, the other waitress, stops to refill his coffee. “Looking good today, David.” She smiles and moves on. At the counter, another flash of bright green catches his eye.
The bright green is a narrow strip of ribbon. The ribbon is tied in a bow, and the bow is tied around a long, thick braid of red hair. The braid is as thick as a rope and as long as David’s arm. The braid is attached to the back of the head of a girl sitting at the counter beside a woman wearing a gray coat.
The rest of David’s view is blocked by the people in the other booths. David sticks his head out, trying to see what the rest of the girl looks like.
By accident, Jean knocks his shoulder as she walks by with plates in her hands.
By accident, a bit of yellow egg falls on David's green shirt.
David looks down, horrified. His beautiful shirt is dirty. There is no time to run home to change. He wipes at the egg and leaves a smear. He tells himself to focus, David, focus.
He dips one corner of his napkin into his water glass just the way Mother does. He wipes at the smear on his shirt. More of the egg goes away but now there is a large water spot.
David looks up and sees the girl with the bright green ribbon looking at him. He doesn't get a very good look back because the lady in the gray coat says something to her that David can't hear. The girl turns around.
David wishes he could get a better look. But the bus is coming soon. The mail is waiting.
Egg or not, he must go. He puts a dollar from his wallet under the cup. Everyone smiles as he goes by and almost everyone says “Good morning, David,” or “Hello, David.”
David answers “Hello” and “Good Morning” the whole way down the narrow aisle. When he has to step aside to let Betty go by with the coffee pot, he finally has a chance to see the girl with the bright green ribbon and long red braid.
She looks to be about David's age, 24. She has smooth white skin and round pink cheeks. She has freckles sprinkled across her nose. She is pretty. She is drinking orange juice while the older woman beside her talks. She looks as bored as David sometimes feels when Mother and her friends talk.
David wants to smile and say hello, but he can’t. His arm and his mouth won’t move every time he looks in her direction.
At the cash register, David gives Jean three more dollar bills. He opens the door and the bells on the knob jingle. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees the girl point at him and his bright green shirt.
His bus is coming. David has to let the door slam. As he steps on the bus, he is sure she is watching him. He turns to look.
“Sit down, buddy,” says the driver. The front part of the bus smells like cigarettes and aftershave. It reminds David of the way Pop used to smell when he still smoked.
David takes his usual seat behind the driver as the bus swings into the traffic. On the way to work, David thinks about the girl with the long red braid and the woman in the gray coat. He wonders who they are and if he will ever see her again. They were the only two people he didn’t know.
He looks around and sees lots of people wearing green. Some people are wearing green shirts like he is. Some women are wearing green jewelry or green sweaters. A girl in a group of giggling teenagers is wearing a button that says “KISS ME IM IRISH.”But no one else is wearing quite the same bright shade.