By Chance, While Jogging
Jogging down the road, bright clear warm day
Past a home for the elderly, retirement place of some sort.
Old, old man in front of me, barely moving, foot by foot, seeming lost.
I pass quickly, meaning to avoid some interaction.
He stops. “Help me, please. Help me.”
“Can you help me? I need to cross. Fire hydrant.”
Fire hydrant? There is no fire hydrant. “You want to cross the street? ”
“I want…I don’t feel so well. I shouldn’t have come out, but…”
“Here, take my arm.”
He grabs hold, a frail tiny man, stooped a bit, maybe five feet tall.
Down from the curb, his weight drops to heavy-soled shoes.
I raise my hand to stop an oncoming car.
We cross slowly, step by painful step.
The River Jordan was not so wide.
“You going to the bus stop? ”
“There.” He points to the bench across the way.
We reach the other side, leave the vast asphalt expanse behind.
He heaves his leg above the opposite curb, a landing of fresh-mown grass.
“You okay? ” I ask.
Catching his breath, “My name’s Jack McGrath. I’ve lived there 25 years.”
We shake hands. “Thank you, ” he says.
Our eyes meet for the very first—and last—time. “Thank you very much.”
Old gray eyes deep set in a grizzled unshaven face. “You’re welcome.”
We understand each other in this timeless moment.
We both see the future.
And for a moment we are brothers on the same journey.
Our hands unclasp, I turn my back and walk away.
Then run, alive into a gust of wind.
Looking back, over my shoulder, I see his small form huddled on the bench.
For a bus to come
And take him away.
(Previously published in Kookamonga Square, July 2000)