By Jon Havens
the cold night lingered down the streets and in between the buildings. the streetlights shed what little light they could to illuminate seven or eight cement squares on the sidewalk. the noise of shouting and laughing and dancing broke out from the venue doors and bounced off of the cars and buses. and all the while the wind blew things across my path: papers, wrappers, torn ticket stubs and eventually you, you walking briskly like some sort of businessman late for an important meeting. but there was no meeting and you mustve forgotten your briefcase. maybe you left it at home on purpose, left it sitting next to your tv as your children sat wide-eyed and your wife packed your lunch. maybe you left it so youd have an excuse to go home and see their faces for just a few more minutes in your already cluttered day. or maybe you had no briefcase at all and there were no children and your wife was dreaming about a man who would sweep her off her feet someday. but he never came. he just pushed his shopping cart across my path. and so you continued walking and pushing, pushing forgotten clothes and items you dug out of dumpsters, pushing your hopes and dreams away from you, keeping them separate from your mind. some days you would drag them along refusing to leave them behind, not wanting to stop, always moving, moving away from something you feared, something youve become or something someone did to you. and so you continued walking, walking away from it all, hoping to turn a corner one day and find what you were looking for. i watched you shrink in the distance, your long matted hair and torn trench coat fading fast from my mind until you disappeared and i fought with my conscience to remember you. did you find what you were looking for when you turned the corner?
i saw you several months later across thousands of miles of land and water in a city full of romanticists and seekers, full of boats and water-ways. outside the square of the saint you shuffled slowly along as people swept past you like laughing hyenas sniffing out their prey. i, from high above on my indignant steps, watched you. you had lost your cart and replaced it with a cane. your legs looked weak, too weak to walk upon alone. your feet tittled inwards, and each step looked as if it took all of your energy and focus. with your one free arm you held out a small tin cup shaking miserably. i watched as a kind man walked by and dropped in several coins. he tried to look at your face but you would not allow it to be seen. i wondered if you went home at nights and felt as if the universe were shouting down senseless profanities at you. i wondered if you ever raised you fists at that universe and shouted back, if you wept and wailed upon your makeshift pillow, or if you blessed God for giving you the ability to walk at all.
i saw you everywhere over the years, sitting on the divider cradling a puppy like it was the only thing that you had and cared about in the entire world, the first present you received in years. you wrapped him in your black jacket and told him you loved him over and over again with the joy of a little boy. checking his teeth and wiping his black spotted eyes you held him under your grey beard and rocked him back and forth. i sat in my car watching you and rolled down my window to allow your sound waves to pierce my ears and then my heart. i almost wept as i saw the love in your eyes and felt the heat against my face pulsating from your chest. youre a good man, dave, better than most realize and only God and your puppy know this to be true.
i passed you at the gas station. i searched for something, anything to help you receive a quick release from the pain. i found a candy bar. i put twenty dollars in my car and gave you a seventy-five cent candy bar. you smiled and flashed your decaying teeth and thanked me. i walked away and you ripped the wrapper open and indulged. was it enough? wouldnt a meal have been better? after all youve been through, pushing carts, grasping canes, cradling puppies, wouldnt a meal and a conversation have been a better fit?
and what of tomorrow? will you make it? where will your next meal come from? who will share your makeshift pillow with you? who will clean your cane and replace the wheels on your cart? do you long for death or do you dream of a day when all is set right? when you can sit in a field under a willow tree with your love and reference the sun, noting how it chased apollo across the sky. or did those dreams slip through the cracks of the cart? did they begin to fade like the strength from your legs? can you cradle them in your black jacket?
did i know it was You all along?
but did i treat You like it was You?
and i will carry that with me, cradle it in my arms, carry it in my cart, and lay it next to me on my pillow for the rest of my life.
Jon Havens recently graduated from college and is attempting to figure out what he wants to do with his life. He hopes that it will involve either writing, teaching and traveling, or perhaps a fusion of the three. You can read his other writings here.