There’s a gas station not far from my house.

It sits along a busy stretch of road on which people are always speeding, tailgating, driving aggressively in that way that people in the northeast do.

Since I moved to my current home, this lone gas station along this busy stretch of road in this quiet neighborhood has been the only gas station I’ve frequented. And, as it happens with these things, I have come to recognize the guy who pumps the gas.

It is always the same guy, never anyone different, a brown dude — maybe Indian, maybe something else — and I can’t say he recognizes me as I do him, but maybe he does. He’s not nice, but not not nice; he’s just there, sullen and quiet, moving from pump to pump, every day, all day, from sun up until sun down.

One day, not long ago, I stopped at the gas station and the guy asked me how I wanted to pay and I said I wanted to pay with my card and so I took the card from my wallet and handed it to the man and then he walked to the back off the car, opened up the gas tank, removed the pump from the dispenser and began pumping the gas.

It was only then, while the gas was pumping, that I noticed something I had never seen before. There, growing in a tiny island of a soil next to the pump, was a patch of grass, and just inches above this patch of grass was a small handful of flowers.

It was then that this man pumping the gas, this man I have never spoken to, bent down, picked up a little watering can, and started watering the flowers. The gas chugged into the car, a faint hum heard from the pump, and all the while — maybe a minute, maybe more — he kept watering.

Click. The gas finished pumping. So he dropped the bucket to the floor, walked back to the window and handed me back the card.

Driving away, I paused, glancing through the rearview. There he stood, back at that little patch of flowers, smiling, admiring their beauty.

He had found his little pocket of joy, however and wherever he could.

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Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.

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