Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Stranger

I never knew where he came from, but he’d show up out of nowhere every morning. He’d walk down the road, one thumb hooked onto his belt, looking back nervously for the sight of a bus. Every morning he’d stand on the curbside at a bus stop, dressed in a corduroy jacket, the same trilby hat pulled down tight to shade his eyes, a brown lunch bag clutched in his hand. Sometimes he stood among riders, sometimes by himself. A bus came and left. He stayed behind with his bag in hand, then after adjusting his hat a few times, trod on down the road to the next bus stop. A bus would pull in and be gone with its riders. He remained under the bus stop sign as though he’d just gotten off the bus. Then he would walk on.
I’d spot him arriving at the town’s shopping plaza. Cars stopped for him. He made his way across the road, touching the brim of his hat to greet those drivers who were waiting for him. He reached the other side and planted himself under a bus stop sign. A bus came and went. Riders too. He, lunch bag in hand, made his way back along the road whence he came.
I remembered everything about him like a stock photograph—the incessant flick of his wrist to tell time, the darting eyes, the obsessive peep into his lunch bag every few seconds. One morning I drove to work on the quiet road. On the edge of the road stood the man, his feet shifting nervously, his head nodding as if on a spring. He stuck out his thumb when he saw my car. I pulled up against the curb and looked into the rear-view mirror. He glanced toward me, then looked the other way, his thumb stuck out. I realized I shouldn’t have stopped. Yet the man’s idiocy suddenly lost its absurdity and he looked more like someone not seen but known for some time.
[Image by akasleep]

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