it’s called summertime.
Sometimes you just need to hear certain words, arranged in a certain way, enough that it calms your being. It’s a reminder for why you are doing what you’re doing. Allow the story to heal you as your stories heal others, and it will serve as salvation. And after the last word is read, the grief is over and life will go on.
|—||Tim O’brien [The Things They Carried]|
I fidgeted with the door handle for 45 seconds before I actually was able to fully bend the black cold plastic back and release the lock that trapped me into the red jeep wrangler. “You’re never gonna get that door are you?,” my best friend said, patronizing me. I slammed the door shut, rolled my eyes and walked ahead of him letting the strap of my black combat boot drag on the ground. I stepped up onto the curb of the entrance of Barnes and Nobles and as I did I heard a soft but strong voice. A man who appeared to be of African American descent in his fifties was leaning against a concrete pillar wrapped in a padded jacket that touched the ends of his braided hair. His torn up bag just laid there is his grip. I didn’t know objects could look sad. “Spare change?” he spoke those words while wetting his dried lips. I admit that I don’t have any. I find cash to be a hassle. “I’m sorry, Can I get you anything from inside? A drink or maybe a snack?
He turns to me smirking, respectfully turning down things that appear insignificant to him. He takes his thumb and places it on the side of his chin and allows the rest of his fingers to curl around his face. “Do you think I could have a dictionary? Webster came out with a 2011, I think something like 75,000 words. It’s the only thing I need.” His voice stuttered through the sentence, almost apologetic for asking any sort of a favor from a stranger. He knew the item well, I was waiting for him to rattle off the ISBN number from memory. He motioned to the front of the store. “ Do you think I could show it to you?” My best friend exchanged glances with me, almost as a sign of concern. With soft eyes I assured him that I knew what I was doing. This wasn’t my first rodeo. “Of course,” I reply.
The man with braided hair showed us up the escalator to the top floor where all the reference books were located. For a minute I was oblivious to his dirtied clothing and I felt as though he was a docent showing us the beauties of a museum that he had so intensely studied. He tore through the shelving until finding the one he had described to us. With two hands he lifted the red and blue paperback up, and it was clear this was his bible. I took the book in my hands and walked downstairs while 3 pairs of eyes watched our interaction with our new friend. As I stepped up to the cashier, his disapproving stare seemed rather hysterical, as I had never been less self-conscious in my life. I immediately looked over to the man who eventually introduced himself as Ralph, he was in the middle of telling the story of how his old dictionary got stolen and since then he has seen so many words he does not know. Without one he claims, his writing has ceased. I handed him the translucent bag, and with that, was an exchange that was bigger than the both of us. It was the gift of words from a citizen to the homeless, from a woman to a man, from one writer to another. I assured him it was my pleasure and we parted ways. He left and took his ‘Kid On Christmas Morning’ face with him. My friend looked at me and told me I have a good heart, I shake my head, I just have a normal one.
Without a home, the homeless population must carry their belongings (both tangible and emotional) with them all the time and in very limited supply…This is the list of things that I would choose to keep with me if I was forced to carry my life on my back.
- My leather bound journal
- My best friend’s sense of humor
- The image of my father’s face
- pictures of my dogs
- My favorite maroon sweatshirt
- My grandmother’s turquoise ring
- My Mother’s voice of reason
- My copy of Jane Eyre