Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I was in Portland, ME this evening around 6pm (I wrote this on Monday) and got a cup of coffee at a cafe, but it was terrible and I couldn't seem to make it any better with sugar and cream. I walked out of the store and up the brick street to where I had parked my car thinking, "I didn't come here to shop. I came here to see nature. I'm in the wrong place." About half way up the street an old man sitting in a doorway called out to me, "Hello, young lady!" I stopped to see what he wanted and he said, "I'll be honest with you. I could use some spare change." I said I was pretty broke, but I might have an extra dollar and as I fished in my delapidated wallet for the bill he started telling me that he was sorry he looked so bad -- his face all red and nose swollen and purple. He showed me that his hands, too, were swollen and worn. He said he's been a serious alcoholic for many, many years now. He had been married for 11 years some time ago... His voice trailed off. He told me he was clean now, but I wasn't sure that was true. When I gave him the dollar it was almost as though he didn't know what it was. He set it down on the step behind him. He looked like he was going to cry. He asked me again if I had any change. At the same time there was a sort of clarity in him. His eyes were crystal blue. When I studied his face he said sadly, "Don't look at me like that." I tried to get him to notice how blue the sky was and how nice the breeze felt, but he didn't seem to notice, but then he added, "And you're here talking to me!" "Take me home with you," he pleaded. I said I had to get back to Boston, but I offered him my coffee, not sure if he'd want it or not. He seemed amused and took the cup, but he must have thought it was something else, because after taking a sip he spit it out suddenly saying, "Oh -- coffee. I wasn't expecting that." I told him I had to get going. The sun was setting and I needed to get on the road. He shook my hand and said he was glad to meet me. I replied likewise. As I walked up the hill he called after me, "You should wear your hair down sometimes!" I laughed and said good-bye, wondering what else I could have done to help as I rounded the corner.

I drove south to Cape Elizabeth and watched the sun set:

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