It had been no more than thirty minutes since I had met this very sad man. I learned four things about him since we met.
First, he smoked; and apparently liked my cigarettes better than his own.
Two, as a boy, he had lived in a cabin by himself.
Three, he and a blond girl, that lived on the same dirt road as he, became close plutonic friends.
Four, I had to be carefull because he would burst into sobs at the most inopportune moments.
On the otherhand maybe that fourth one was something I learned about myself as well as him. That is all beside the point; allow me to continue the sad man’s story.
“Then it happened!” said the man as I sat there on that log listening to his story.
Again, he didn’t even wait for me to ask the obligatory “what happened?”
“The little blond girl stopped speaking to me. I lost her because of my stubbornness. I am not sure why I did the following; I just did it. I started cleaning my own fingernails. I washed my pants more often; and my shirt also. When I had clean fingernails and clothes a good feeling came upon me. You know, – – – the same feeling that I got after I cut and split a cord of wood. I figured if I got cleaned up and then split wood I would feel twice as good. However, once I finished cutting wood my fingernails and clothes were filthy again. So I never felt twice as good.”
“The little blond girl was lost. It was not a complete loss because she had taught me things. I could get cleaned up and go to the farmers’ market. At first I just looked because I had no money. There were good things displayed on the back of the trucks; apples so big I could never have imagined it, big leaks that they called scallions, and squash of all sizes and colors. I sure wanted to try some of the food that was displayed but I had no money. As I was leaving the market I noticed one man selling wild leeks. ‘I could do that’ said I to myself.”
The sad man stopped telling his story and asked if he might have another cigarette. I shook one half way out of the pack and offered it to him. We lit up and smoked a bit before he continued his story.