Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, may I have a moment of your time? My name is Jeff, and last night someone stole my backpack that had everything I owned in it: my clothes, my medication, my toothbrush, my ID, everything, all of it, gone. As you can tell, as I see you can, with your raincoats and umbrellas and dark shoes, it’s been raining outside, and I’m soaked to the bone, shivering. I’m embarrassed to be seen in such a condition by fine people like yourselves. But it’s not just me who needs help. It’s my wife.

Melinda, she has tetanus and her feet have swelled to the size of dachshunds. The lockjaw has affected our already suffering communication, and her only sustenance is pre-chewed deli meat that I feed to her through discarded straws. You can tell she hates it, but protein’s best on a limited diet. Anyway, she needs help more than I do, and she’d be here now if she weren’t handcuffed to a bike rack in an abandoned bus station near the freeway.

She doesn’t know it, but her heart medication was in my backpack. She takes it twice daily, and I’m not exactly sure how serious those labels on the bottle are, so anything you can spare would help.

“What’s wrong with this guy?” you might be thinking in those fine, silkily haired heads of yours. “Why can’t he get a job?” Well, good citizens, I do have a job. I’m employed by three small men of indeterminate ethnicity who live under the Third Avenue Bridge. They give me things to do, and I do them with a vigor equal to that of any man with mouths to feed other than his own. Unfortunately, the pay is low, so low that I’m broke, and my contract has me pegged until 2037. But, like I said, I’m here more for Melinda, my wife, than I am for me.

She told me to wait it out before I started making a fool of myself on the subways like this. She swears that once her feet stop aching so badly she’ll fill out the job application for puddle assistant at Ricky’s Wash and Wax, but her feet always ache, and I can’t stand to see her go on living (if you can call squabbling with rats over crumb-sized rocks living) like some marginalized nonentity.

She’s probably alone right now (or maybe with that guy Greg who throws cans at us), rattling against that dang bike rack, wondering when I’ll come back to drool chewed bologna over her chapped and hungry lips. The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, no matter how much she needs me, I need her more, and no amount of self-degradation or trash-flavored Italian subs will stop me from loving her and giving her what she needs to live!

I’m sure this isn’t the first time you’ve been interrupted while minding your own business, nor is it the first time you’ve been made to feel uncomfortable and wicked while just trying to do good in your own lives, but imagine, just imagine, how it feels to be me—what it’s like, when all you brought home for dinner is candy-bar wrappers, to see the cold fist of disappointment sink into the already famished gut of the one you love. Think long and hard: “Am I really wedded to losing this change in the wash? Could I maybe let someone use it?” And, people, fine citizens, I can see the good rising up in you.

Am I as worthy of your sympathy as the poor gentleman with no feet and soda cans for ears who spoke to you only a few minutes ago? No. I’m not. Or that little girl with nothing but a small bag of “Wax and Massage” brochures to raise her? No. Or the midget twins who wrestled for our amusement? No, but my wife is.

And so I beseech you, for the sake of a fine woman, spare whatever you can, give what you see fit, and send me back to her with more than what I left with.

You know, it’s funny—all this time living in what we thought was an “abandoned” bus station, it was us who were abandoned, not the bus station. The bus station has us, because Melinda’s handcuffed to that dang bike rack, and we have nobody to help us except you fine people. Maybe that’s not funny, maybe it’s just true.

I will now go around to collect any donations. Thank you for your time.