What happened to him happened at the bus station, of all places. It was a clear bright Saturday and he was going to bet on some horses at the track upstate. He was late getting started and arrived at the station with just a few minutes to spare before the bus was due to leave. The line for tickets was long and slow, and he could see the girl at the counter was inefficient, smiling slowly at people as she counted their change twice to make sure. He shifted his weight and snorted loudly a few times. The man ahead of him turned and gave him a skeptical look. He stepped out of line toward the ticket window and shouted, “Look, I’ve got a bus to catch, can’t you speed it up, or get some help or something?”
The girl was quite pretty, he saw now that he was closer. Blond hair fell in curls around her bright eyes. He was undeterred. “You could do all this faster, people are in a hurry. I’m going to miss my bus on account of how slow you are.”
“Just a moment,” she said to the old woman whose hands quivered over her changepurse. The girl’s smile faded as she turned to look Heck in the eye. “What’s the matter with you?”
“I’ve got a schedule and nobody else is in a hurry, or they’d be angry too, and you’re just moseying along there, making small talk and you ought to be more professional about the whole thing.” His voice grew a little louder with every word he spoke. People began to stare. A driver smoking outside the station door leaned in to see what the commotion was.
The girl shook her head, her brows tilted in disbelief. She leaned over the counter, putting her face as close to him as her body could reach. “Come here,” she said and waited for him to step toward her. He plucked a ten-dollar bill from his pocket to pay for the ticket he expected her to shove at him. But when he stopped a foot shy of the counter, she only shook her head again and asked, “Doesn’t anybody love you?”