One morning in October of 2013 I was riding the 6-train when a panhandler got on. He was on his way to Harlem Hospital, he said, to get his right leg amputated. It was a Tuesday, but the cutting was to be done that Thursday. In the meantime he wanted “to buy a few items.”

He rolled up his pant leg—he was wearing sweats—and produced a leg that looked like shawarma on the spit. Oh, it was a goner, for sure! And that poor foot it was attached to, its health status hidden under a black sneaker—it was heading for the trash bin as well.

As the man limped by me, I expected his diseased leg to stink—but it didn’t. It had no smell at all. To be honest, I was a little disappointed.

It’s been over two months since his Thursday amputation. I wonder if he managed to buy the few items on his list. And, of course, I wonder what the hell those items were?