Letters to Strangers: Hungry Man


Dear Hungry Man,

I’m sorry I’m bad at climbing trees. To be fair though, I think you could have chosen in better champion in the Coconut Retrieval event. Perhaps someone a little less… Well, me. I’m not as spry as I used to be and even in my prime I was never exactly blessed in the athletics/physical strength department.

That’s not to say I didn’t appreciate the gesture. You were absolutely right to get my attention and call me over. As you noted, the wind was picking up and the coconut bundles I’d been walking beneath only a moment prior were hanging on precariously. There was a pretty solid chance I could have been badly injured, so my thanks go out to you.

I wish you would have been a little more direct with me though. I actually feel bad that when you suggested that, “Maybe someone should climb up there and knock them down.” I sarcastically suggested that you give it a shot. You, probably 30 years my senior, looked like you hadn’t eaten in a week; but my default setting is wry cynicism. I thought we were just joking around. It wasn’t until a while later that I realized you were slyly asking me to shimmy up there and get you some food. Again, that wouldn’t have worked, but at least then I’d have been clearer as to your motives and could have proposed an alternative; say, I could have bought you a sandwich or something. I was, literally, travelling between cash-machine and food-truck when you got my attention. I had money to spare. Hell, I ended up throwing away half of what I ordered.

But perhaps that would have defeated the effort entirely. I’ve seen my share of pan-handlers and beggars in my day. I grew up close to Portland, Oregon and downtown Honolulu is rife with their ilk as well. Most have some manner of gimmick; some try to look pitiful, others try to guilt you out of your pocket change, some try honesty, “Hey man, you got a dollar, I wanna buy a beer.” As though telling me honestly that they intend to use my donation to become intoxicated will somehow endear them to me… It’s a strange assumption, I think, that the desire to get drunk on cheap liquor is assumed to be an empathetic attribute. I digress.

But, no, you instead chose kindness; looking out for my well-being while you waited patiently for Mother Nature to provide you with a single coconut. It’s a gesture I respect and wish I could reward now, but sadly by the time I got it through –my- thick coconut of a skull you had moved on.

I can only hope the winds favored you that day and that you walked away with a bushel of fresh coconuts to last you a while and again; I’m sorry I’m a little slow on the uptake, and shit at climbing palm trees.


A. Stephen Getty


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