Saturday, January 15, 2011

Gone

The Old Fashioned sitting on the bar in front of me tastes wonderful tonight.

The flavor of my recently extinguished cigar mingles with the bourbon in the back of my throat.

It tingles.

It feels good.

The surreality of the evening's events is just now sinking in. For the past fifteen minutes, I stood in the cold outside of the bar and conversed with a homeless man as the remnants of my revisited cigar burned away between my gloved fingers. Half of the man's words were absolutely unintelligible; the deranged babbling of a man abandoned by the unflinching judgement of time and society.

The man was tall; a bit taller than myself, but not by too much. He wore a simple jacket over a simple hooded sweatshirt. On his legs were plain, slack-like pants. They were brown, if I remember correctly.

Yes, definitely brown.

His face was serious, but warm, and his smile revealed two rows of interestingly arranged teeth. Atop his head stood a haphazard collection of short, grey dreadlocks. His eyes stared straight into me, as though he could have asked me any question about my past and known if I was lying.

His name was Wesley.

He was friendly, but grew defensive every time that I agreed with him, a reaction surely conditioned by the state of his existence.

Surely I could not understand his predicament.

I could not understand his predicament.

I, standing there in my knee-length wool coat and scarf, my leather gloves and shoes, enjoying my moderately priced cigar. His predicament can only be a concept to me.

I yearned to help the man, but out of an emotion deeper than pity.

Guilt, perhaps.

Had I not already given all of my small bills away earlier in the evening, he would have received some of them had he asked. All that I had left to offer him was one of my few remaining cigarettes. He was disappointed, but gratefully accepted the small paper cylinder. The flame from my lighter danced across his worn and wind-beaten face as I lit the wrapped tobacco suspended between his lips. He took a breath and his eyes calmed slightly. We talked for another few minutes after the brief ritual, until eventually he simply backed away, bid me goodnight, and turned to leave.

It would be a lie to say that I was not unnerved by the transaction. It is never presumptuous to be worried or careful in such a scenario. But I never once felt threatened by the man, even as he was approaching me. His ultimate goal was to ask me for money, certainly, but there was no real reason for us to talk for fifteen minutes first.

The man was simply letting off steam.

We talked of God and racism...clothing and society...science, Rastafarianism, and the sameness of all things.

I wish that I could have helped more; given him enough for at least a warm drink in the cold night.

But there is one aspect of the man's plight that I did understand.

Sometimes people just need someone.

Sometimes people just need to talk.

His name was Wesley.

I will remember his name.

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