His back to the brick wall of the convenience store. It was 8:00 a.m., and already the Texas sun promised more heat than anyone ought to have to endure.
He was impossibly thin, and perhaps younger than he looked. It was hard to tell. A life on the streets ages a person inside and out.
His right wrist still bore the unmistakable badge of one who’s recently been in close contact with people in lab coats, carrying charts, mumbling things about “medication” and “disorders”.
I’d seen that badge before, on my own father some five years earlier when he was convinced we were all on a ship bound for Germany to fight the Nazis with swords.
We were in an emergency room at the local veteran’s hospital, and Daddy was talking to the resident psychologist.
I stared at the mans’ wrist as he waved his arms about. His words, nonsensical to most, floated across the heated air to me.
“..and then he says he’ll be right back..well, he never came back…”
Other commuters, hurrying along to work, to school, to their lives, got out of their cars and some stared at him. Some ignored him, and some walked around him, giving him a wide berth as they did so.
He is homeless, outcast, somehow frightening to them.
I was like them, until Daddy’s descent into Alzheimer’s taught me that minds are trapped in myriad ways for those who seem to live out of phase with the rest of the world, and we cannot know the why just by looking.
I smiled, not at him, but for him. He grinned, toothless, in return. His bright blue eyes so reminiscent of my Daddy’s. I felt the tears and hurried along inside the store.
When I came back out, he was still there. He was still carrying on a conversation with the invisible denizens of his little world.
As I passed, he called out to me..”Miss? Oh miss?”
I stopped, inadvertently stiffening for the moment, and turned to face him.
“You have yourself a blessed day now, you hear?” He said, as lucid in that moment as he was uncomprehending in the next when I said, “Thank you, sir, and you as well.” and he looked at me as if seeing me for the first time.
I got back to my car, and slid inside the cool air-conditioned space.
The tears flowed, hot and freely, down my cheeks again.
I miss you, Daddy.