Sunday, December 12, 2010

man with a sign

He walked down the concrete divider separating the eastbound and westbound traffic, in between his small blue cooler, lime green container--a helmet, perhaps? or bucket?--and what I imagine to be the limits of believed efficacy.

He walks past my car, holding a small, humble piece of cardboard, a sign, with neat, printed letters. Something to the effect of "HOMELESS, PLEASE HELP. GOD BLESS." As he walked by, I regretted that I had my sun visor faced toward him, blocking my view of his face. I could only see him from the mid-torso downward, and once he got past my car, I could see his full profile, but with his face turned away, facing other cars.

As he approached once more, slowly walking past my car, paying me no attention, I tried to throw him a smile, though I imagine my smile wasn't what he was looking for. He pulled off his hat, humble sign tucked between his arm and ribs, and lifted up a ponytail of oily-looking, dirty-blond hair. He lifted it, and lowered it, and flung out the back of a dingy gray baseball cap a few times, until he could get it on in one fling.

In these last seconds before the light turned green, I wondered if he had been in the military. I looked at his legs, the muscle definition still apparent, and wondered if this was the life he lived as a veteran. I wished I'd had something to give him, not cash, but attention. Imagined me sitting on that concrete divider, atop his green helmetbucket, conducting an interview with a homeless man. Where are you from, originally? (I hope not Miami.) How many hours do you spend out here? How long have you been homeless?

And finally, before I lost sight of him as I turned onto the highway, I thought of my dad. What if that was my dad, homeless, the leathery golden-red skin replaced with taut brown?

I drove away, even more lost and searching, it seems, than when I started my empty journey through empty cities, containing much but still not having what I'm looking for, whatever it is that is banging back and forth, wildly, blindly against the dark walls of my reasoning. My eyes welled up with tears and my wires crossed and further frustration set in.

a heart on a search for that which is unknown

I continued driving, as he paced with a humble sign with neat, printed letters; me, no closer to my truth, and neither one of us any closer to home.

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