It was raining yesterday when I finished my catechism. It wasn’t the sloping kind of rain, the sort that makes you love to be slippery and wet. It was the wintry kind—cold, unsure of itself, persistent. And though I had an umbrella tucked away somewhere in my oversized man-purse, I didn’t retrieve it. “Water is the memory of our baptism,” Pastor said. So I walked home in the drizzle, content to let my matted hair soak in the streams.
As I reached the green expanse in front of the Capitol, I spied an old man sprawled across newspapers on a bench. He was impervious to the rain; every inch of his tattered clothing was soaked and sagging, but he didn’t care. Walking past, I turned to look at his face. The only part uncovered was his mouth, which bore a wary smile. I imagined him dreaming of once-were kids running in a yard, of sipping beer on a back porch while recalling the idiocy of the day with friends. I even heard his laugh—a guttural earthquake that shook his whole body. It was hard not to be affected by the tremors. Everyone always laughed when they talked to him; it was contagious.
The lights from atop that marble building stared down at me inquisitively. I kept walking, pretending not to be suddenly invested, suddenly a part of this strange man’s distant life. I giggled as I thought of him wearing a faded white tank top, rough brown shorts, and flip flops. He was playing keep-away with the kids. In my mind he was, anyway.
On the bench, he played keep-away from everyone else. I think he would have loved the company of children, but children don’t visit hobos who sleep on newspaper. So he dreams instead. When the sun finally reaches its orange-hued awakening, he’ll get up, curse his wet clothes, and plod to the food bank. The children will fade, the beer will be a linger faintly on the tip of his tongue, and the laughter will be an echo turned barely a whisper. Reality sets in on another day, another day homeless, another day without.
Ah, yes—but not without memories, not without dreams. And he cannot wait just to eat enough to stay alive so that he can sleep again. Sprawled across newspaper on an idle bench in the shadow of the Capitol. He cannot wait to dream.
And I cannot wait to visit him.