Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Man With Eyes Like My Father

His name was David and his eyes were the same color as my father’s. Blue with a hint of gray, the color of machines and hard work and oil that got trapped beneath your fingernails. During the day, he lived on the corner of Main and Bristol. No one knew where he lived in the evenings. Some quiet alley or corner behind a restaurant. All I know is that there must have been a roof or an overhang of some kind because I asked him once, where do you go when it rains. He had smiled and said he had a safe place, a dry place. But when the rains got fierce one winter, one very cold winter for Southern California, I noticed that he looked more tired every day, like he’d been fighting that rain all night long.

I brought him coffee and burritos and warm socks. Once I gave him a rain slicker that could double as a blanket. But it was never enough and I knew it.

My heart ached whenever I saw him on the corner, legs tucked below him, useless and dead, his wheelchair pulled beneath the awning where people waited to catch the bus. He never begged for money or held up a sign, will work for food. He just waited beside people who had someplace to go, and someone to spend time with.

His eyes would haunt me at night. My father’s eyes in a crippled body. All alone and forgotten. I wished I had the courage to ask him, where is your family, why are you alone.

Instead I brought him bottles of water and In-N-Out burgers.

I worried about him when it was cold outside and when it was hot. Maybe he was someone’s father and they didn’t know where he was. Maybe he’d had a fight with his only son and now they’d never talk to each other again.

My husband and I went on vacation one year, out of state, and we were gone for a week. When we came back, David was gone.

There was no one to ask, where is he, is he safe, did he move or did he die. To everyone else he had been invisible and unwanted.

To me, he had been a man with eyes like my father.

A man who disappeared with the wind. And the corner of Main and Bristol is now empty and lonely, because he is gone.