Friday, April 27, 2007

The man in the fading suit ...

This afternoon on my way back from the playground I caught the eyes of a man I have seen quite often in the neighborhood. He’s about my age and wears the same jacket and pants most of the time. They are shiny now but from the cut of them I suspect he might once have had a job, and maybe even a family, and his job afforded him the luxury of buying a good suit of clothes. Our eyes met as I was leaving the Stadtgarten today in the late afternoon. It was a stunning day, almost frighteningly so. I don’t know whether to celebrate the weather or dig a deep hole. It’s April in Germany and it feels like July in Italy. Something is wrong somewhere in the ether and I am angry that I have to even think about it but I do and we do and this, I fear, is only the beginning.

But my story today isn’t about the climate, although it might ought to be, it’s about the man I saw at the end of the day, whose near smile stays with me even now after dinner, after HH has taken his bath and is off in dreamland, as the sun is nearly set and of all the things in my world right now that I could be thinking about it’s this man on the bench in the Stadtgarten that occupies my thoughts.

I don’t recall the first time I saw him, but it was a while ago, sometime in the last six months. He was on a bench in the Brüsseler Platz, near the garden plot I tend. He was nearly asleep and the instrument of his numbed rest was resting at his side, empty and needing to find it’s home in a nearby trash bin. Empty bottles resting near their consumer on a park bench speak loudly of desperation and loneliness and loose whatever other value they may have had before there cap was plucked.

This afternoon there was another bottle at his side but it wasn’t yet empty and his eyes were still open and when I peddled by he looked at me with recognition and I nearly nodded back, just enough to acknowledge him, enough I expect that he gave me a thought or two and may have wondered who I might be. I don’t think he’s ever noticed me before because he’s usually sleeping or close to sleeping when our paths have crossed. He reminds me of someone, of the man who runs the cigar store down the street, a successful man who is never short of a smile or a hello. They could be brothers these two and maybe they are. I’ll probably never know and I expect that one day soon this man in the fading suit will no longer haunt our neighborhood. He doesn’t have the sturdy bearing of the other men who drink together each day in the park. He is a softer man, not unlike myself, and always drinks alone. I fear his ride will be a brief and steep decline. I wish him well.