Laugh at my Pain


A Column by Eli Cohen

“Soup Story”

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My grandparents on my mothers side divorced when my mom was 10. Today, my grandmother remarried and lives here in Great Neck. She is currently retired and lives nearby to me. I see her at least once a week.I love her to death. My grandfather lives in a bachelor pad in Miami and works for Donald Trump. I don’t see him much unless we visit him , or when he comes to New York for business. He wants me to only become a lawyer, even though that’s not the career I want to pursue. He is quite the character. I remember he was quite the storyteller as well, but they were all chock full of BS.

He told me once that as a kid growing up in Russia, when he was bored he would grab fish from the river and see if he could drown them in a bucket filled with water from another river. He also told me his parents had to take him everywhere they went when going out because they couldn’t leave him home with a sitter, he would always impregnate them. He also told me how he once robbed a bank and discovered an unseen village in the Himalayas consisting of Jewish Buddhist monks who prayed to a Buddha wearing a Yamaka; they wore monk robes and Yamakas as well. He called them…the Bewz (pronounced booze).

He also told me how in Russia there lives a species of mink that furriers like to capture in traps. When captured, it is instinctive for these minks to gnaw through their wrists and kill themselves in order to avoid a more painful death. This upset him and made him feel like that this may lead to their extinction. So he created the Suitsidal’nyye Organizastii Zhivotnykh ( Suicidal Animals Organization) to help depressed animals. He says when I’m older, I can become vice president of the company. Keep in mind this is the same man who can’t count to 20 without skipping numbers 16-19. But I’m getting off topic, let’s get back to the story.

For years, my grandfather always wanted me to come visit him in Miami alone, so we could bond together without the family. I never could due to school or financial problems, and in all honesty,I didnt want to be with him just the two of us. I thought things would get really annoying. Finally one February break a few years ago, my parents told me they bought me a plane ticket to go see my grandfather. At first I thought “I’m gonna have to cross off having fun on my list of things to do this week.” but eventually I got over it and decided that after I go visit him, he’ll never bother me about not doing so again.

My parents forgot to tell me one important detail until two days before my flight. I wasn’t going to Miami, I was going to New Mexico because that’s where my grandfather was going to be during the vacation for a business trip he was on. I was going to Albuquerque. What the hell is there to do in New Mexico! It’s where dirt meets foreign dirt (later I learned that New Mexico doesn’t border Mexico at all but in fact Texas….I was super ethnocentric back then.) I somehow was able to convince myself that things could always be worse, though I never expected it to happen. My flight was at four in the morning, and so due to airport policies I had to get up at two. The flight was nearly four hours long but felt like a lifetime. I couldn’t get any sleep because I was sitting next to a non English speaking five year old kid, who made it his mission to repeatedly tap me on the top of my head every time his father went to the bathroom. His father drank whiskey the whole flight and if he wasn’t drinking it, he was “releasing” it. Now that i think about it, i would drink a lot too if I had this kid.
When the plane landed, words could not describe how exhausted I was. After getting off the plane, I went to baggage claim and got my suitcase. After that, I went to this large cafe, people sat there ordering food from different eateries and waited for express trains to take them to other terminals. I called up my grandfather and he told me that there was a train coming in a half hour that goes to terminal B3, where he’ll be waiting for me there to take me to the hotel. Since I had time, I decided to go get some soup to eat and help me refresh myself. I ordered chicken noodle soup. After getting my soup I sat down at a table and began to eat some of it. I was the only one in the cafe. I then realized that I didn’t know where to go when waiting for the train.
I had to go find an airport map. I put my suitcase down and left my soup. I walked down the hall and found a map, then returned to my table for a surprise. There was a guy at my table eating my chicken noodle soup! He was a man who looked like he was in his late forties. He had torn jeans and a green snow cap with its top torn off. He had a long gray beard that almost touched the rim of the bowl. He looked like he was homeless. He must’ve thought that somebody didn’t finish their soup and didn’t throw out the rest. At the sight of this, I got really mad. I didn’t want to scream at him though, so I just walked up and sat across from him.
I cleared my throat and ” Ahemed ” and had a angered look on my face. The man just looked up at me with a frown, he didn’t Say a word. As I watched him eat my soup that rightfully belonged to me, I couldn’t help but notice how his arm shook when he brought the spoon up to his face to sip his soup. His knuckles were bruised bad. What has this guy been through? I mean yeah he’s homeless, but that might be his fault. Maybe he got kicked out of the house when he was sixteen and couldn’t go to school so he just lived on the streets. Maybe he was one of those war vets that the government just screwed over. He must be begging for some spare change everyday. He must not even make enough to buy a bowl of soup at minimum. It was only five dollars.
But no,everyone just keep passing him by. Judging because of his appearance and profession (or lack of profession rather.) I felt bad, I should let him share the soup with me. I looked around to see if anyone else was in the cafe, so they wouldn’t call security on the homeless man, or worse…judge me. No one around, just the two of us. I looked at the man again and made gestures showing that I would let him share the soup. He kept sipping away after a few sips, I slowly moved my hand to the bowl and slid it to my side of the table. I took a few sips and slid it back to the man.
I let him take a few sips and then I made gestures saying I want some, so he slid it back to me. This went on until the bowl was empty. When it was, I looked at the man. He got up and looked at me with a sad face that read ” Thank you for not shooing me off. I just wish there were more people out there like you. ” I smiled at him, and then he walked away. I never saw him again. I got up to put the bowl in the recycling bin, smiling the whole way there. I felt like I did a blessing of some sort,b that I let that man who was less fortunate than me share my meal. After a long flight of being treated like crap by people I didn’t know, I was happy that i could do a nice deed for someone no matter what they might have done to me. I felt a warm happy feeling inside of me. Something that I would feel every time I thought about this day, something I would cherish forever.
In reality, I cherished it for about 30 seconds. That is how long it took for me to notice a table with a bowl of delicious soup on it, and my suitcase resting besides it. After putting the pieces together, I flipped out. I realized that i just ate a homeless man’s food! Who knows how long it took him to make up the money to buy this soup. I wasn’t helping him out by sharing this soup, I just showed him how much more his life sucks! Showing how people can just walk all over him and take anything they want from him because he’s homeless.
No one has ever experienced the epitome of disgust, when realizing the soup they just ate was chicken noodle, but had the after taste of french onion in your mouth. Lucky for me, there was a toilet on the train, in which i proceeded to vomit my kidney’s out. After meeting up with my grandfather I couldn’t help but think that none of this would have happened if I didn’t come to New Mexico and spent time. I should have waited until he was back in Miami. Regardless I will admit, my grandfather was able to find time for me and I had a great experience. All ended well, but every now and then I get nightmares of this same homeless man vowing to get revenge, chasing me down, and punching me in my testicles. It scares me so much that I wake up in the morning, and find that I’ve wet the bed, It was hot as soup.