Lost Encyclopedias

Walking down the street he found a young man slumped against the black metal side of a municipal garbage can.

–Hey, he said.

The young man looked up at him, his eyes heavy and lidded, his face slack and listless. Oh, he said. Yeah. Hey. He subsided again.

–Aren’t you freezing? Do you… do you need some money? He dug in his pockets, found a crumpled twenty that he held out nervously.

–I’m not homeless. I don’t need your money.

–Oh, he said. I, I thought —

–I know what you thought.

–I’m sorry, I didn’t mean —

–I used to care, you know? I used to do more. I was… at twelve I founded Clean Streets, you know who we were, we’d mail litter back to people and remind them it was a crime. It felt like important. And then I … got threatened and it didn’t seem worth it so I gave up and… there was this kid, some kind of a detective or something, Smith or Brown or something, and his girlfriend and for a while it all seemed worthwhile but then… and now I’m so old and where has all the time gone? The young man stared at his hands. God, where has the time gone?