Thursday, April 23, 2009
I was obliged recently to take a train to Boston. The appointment fell at a most inopportune time but happily Spouse, as much in need of company as I, decided to go on the excursion too.
In Boston at the designated time I pushed open the door of the Immigration office, noting the sign that sternly banned cell phones, food, liquids and cameras.
Being in possession of all four I hastily passed my backpack to Spouse and suggested he wait for me across the street in a small cafe I had seen. Off he went with a step more wary than usual: my ever-careful, ever-confident Spouse reached the other side of the road after altogether too much contemplation.
Shortly thereafter I completed my task, exited the building and went to meet Spouse.
I passed a man of curious appearance as I drew near to the cafe, and I cast an eye over the fellow. He bore a tremendously disheveled beard, a threadbare jacket and the legs of a pyjama suit; his hair sprouted in thick, curly, tangled bunches atop his head and had not seen a hairbrush for many a day.
Then our eyes met and I realised that I was married to the broken fellow.
"The cafe was closed," said Spouse. "So I thought I'd just walk about a little and wait for you."
We began walking. It was fiercely cold. I took another look at Spouse, replaying it all: his beloved, three-week-old, luxurious, beautiful dream of a jacket had been cut open by paramedics, and rendered useless. We dragged his old jacket from the closet, glad to have kept it.
He could not brush his hair because of eight staples that held his skin together and, too, because his hand was bound in a sling.
His hair was long only because he had not reached the salon- one that is next to our home- on a Saturday that is written for us in indelible ink.
He could not shave on account of a dreadful wound on his cheek.
"I went to the cafe," said Spouse, "but the sign said they don't open for a while."
Spouse told me that he had rattled the door handle before he noted the hours; a worker inside looked up and saw Spouse, instantly understanding the latter's need to get inside where it was warm.
The look he gave Spouse was one of deepest sympathy and helplessness.
"But not for being injured," said Spouse. "For being homeless. He thought I was homeless. I saw it on his face. He wanted to help."
And throughout the day, as we walked arm in arm around Boston, I observed many a look of pity from passers-by, but also a significant number of bright, reassuring smiles from those who thought that I was terribly kind to take a ragged, one-armed homeless man under my wing.
"You're doing such a good thing," the smiles said.
If they only knew.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 5:36 PM