So, I’m running around in California right now, near San Jose. I decided after work today that I was gonna go to Hooters. I had thought on it a bit, and thought, Fuck it. Why not? Cute girls, and the food is passable and much cheaper than anything around me.So I went. I had stopped going there because one particular incident just made me disgusted with the people that typically attend, but I threw it out the window a bit ago, because it stirred some memories and emotions that helped me heal some.

Nothing eventful happened. I had a ten-piece of wings, a salad and a piece of pie. I chatted with the girl waiting on me about travel and what the rush hour was like around here, so I could gauge when to head back to my hotel. I got my check, and I was placing my card on it so it could be cashed out.

Not long after, I saw this guy walk in. He was Hispanic, wearing a “Patriot” shirt that he was occasionally checking on to make sure was clean, some cargo shorts and sandals. Older guy, thinning hair on top, and he was occasionally talking to himself and looking at different people in the restaurant with bewildered eyes. The waitress came up to him, and I could tell that she was slightly uncomfortable, albeit kind and polite. No doubt it wasn’t her first time dealing with someone who was off, but the results may have been radically different last time.

She got his order, and she returned briefly with a key lime pie. And he began eating it, and was still occasionally talking to himself and looking around while taking a few bits of his pie at a time. I figured he was savoring it.

But his eyes made me wonder what had happened. Was it something he had seen? A bad drug trip? My mind began to wonder, and I started placing myself in his shoes, and began to wonder how it must be for him day in and day out. There was a chance that he never fit in after his change happened, and maybe it was something he struggled with. He seemed to order his food well enough, and maybe that piece of pie was his reprieve from whatever ailed him– in his life, in a memory, psychologically or otherwise.

And as I watched him, I realized that I had no idea what he was really like– I mean, what he was really like. I didn’t know if he was someone that could be talked to but dealt with this type of psychosis. I didn’t know if he had served in the military and was now experiencing the after effects of shell shock under medication control. I didn’t know about his family, I didn’t know if he held a job. I didn’t know, at all. And I could recall how nice the waitress was being to him, but how she kept some distance. I didn’t know if he was aware of it, and had just come to accept it in moments of clarity he may or may not have had.

What hell that must be, I thought as I recalled him coming in through the door, and how off his posture and gait was abnormal to people around him. Society has become a bit more accepting of people who are allowed out and are obviously still “off,” but the discomfort was still there. What hell it must be, if he is aware of how people react to him, and he is at the mercy of this ailment and can’t really control it.

We never know the story of someone who crosses our path the first time, and we often act on triggers taught by society to avoid people who are not acting “normally.” This man had gone through something, it was clear in my eyes.

I thought on some of my points of Honor that I hold close to me. “It is the job of the stronger to protect the weaker,” I often tell people. Tonight made me realize that this does not apply in just physical strength, but mental acuity as well. The stronger should always stand up and help, somehow. He, and others, have paid a price in their mental capacity for whatever they underwent– military, drugs, physical injuries or otherwise. The possibilities of how he arrived at the here and now were so endless– did something happen to him, and did these new personality traits drive off any family he had? Was he happily married before? Does he have kids out there who don’t have a fully cognizant father?

I didn’t know. But what I did find out more recently, was that sometimes the small things helped. Like that pie he was eating. Maybe it helped.

What a small price, I concluded. That small thing sitting in front of him, giving some type of solace with each bite. Maybe he had saved up for it. Maybe he didn’t. But what a small price it was, to enjoy something so simply. My course of action seemed clear enough, now.

So I paid for his piece of pie.