There is a tall, thin man who sits on the concrete near the medical clinic I go to. The traffic is fierce on that corner, relentless with the noise of the intersection and the buses arriving at their stops. Pedestrian movement is plentiful, never ending. This is the beginning of the hospital district on West Broadway so there are some elderly and disabled with walkers and wheelchairs. But most are young and mobile, well-dressed and one-handed with their cell phones activated and their devotion directed down towards them.


He rocks back and forth on his heels. Back and forth, back and forth. Perhaps he hears music, or tries instinctively to create his own life raft, to not be swept away by the surrounding current of sound. He is crouched before a little piece of cardboard and a circle of cloth for any donations. Pennies from heaven. The past few years I have attended the clinic regularly, weekly for health treatments, and occasionally reached down to place money in his hand. When I do I am always surprised by his upturned face. He doesn’t appear to be a smoker. So many street people are desperate for smokes and surrounded by butts. But the pallor of his skin is gray from ill health and lack of oxygen, or possibly a disease that is draining his life force.


It’s his eyes. They are blue, and clear, and there is a depth of sadness that swells up, up, up, from the very bottom of him. There is nothing calculating in his face. His gratitude is pure each and every time, and I sense an honesty in him. He is that stripped down, not much left. All on view.


Today I left the clinic low in spirit, even though I’d received an infusion of nutrients straight into my veins, the equivalent of liquid gold. I walked slowly towards the crosswalk and saw the back of a man standing at one of the saplings planted into the pavement. He was holding on, and his head was bent. My impression was one of age, and I wondered if the man had felt temporarily faint and was stopped to catch his breath.


I went and put my hand on his shoulder to ask if he was okay. He turned and looked into my eyes, and his were the blue ones. Surrounded by a wall of metal cacophony we stood wordlessly. In that moment I felt that we both knew we were fellow sufferers, to some extent. His of course is the greater. My distress is tempered by gratitude, soothed in the small home I was heading towards, the quiet and respite it offers from the city’s clamour. I murmured, “What a busy corner,” and, “Are you going to be okay?” Sad. Sad. Said without pity, without drama, did I hear what he was saying? I’m sure he said, “It won’t be long now.” Did he say what I thought he meant? Whatever the words, I felt the full import of his meaning.


We shared a helplessness on that corner (helpless in the face of…helpless in the face of…), and I am guilty of mine being only a temporary crisis of spirit. He was asunder by all and everything. Obviously the years of whatever life he might have had were gone from the bone, not a ghost left, forever gone from the present moment. All had fallen away or never materialized. What was left was the barest skeletal supports. From his fairly clean, tidy clothes I always believed he had somewhere to sleep in at night. I thought he panhandled to augment the pittance that our government gives to those who have no family to speak of, no employment to contribute skills to, no physical place intentionally created to call home.


We parted with me giving him no money. I had no food in my purse to pass on to him. I came home to what keeps me intact, what I maintain so that I won’t fall through the cracks and turn gray. My emotion is useless to him. What he needs is years after the fact, and greater than what I could do to change the trajectory of his life.


But I want to go back to that corner more prepared. He has a name, and so do I. He recognizes my face and the brief hold we exchanged was as real a gift as any. I cry because whatever I do for my fellow human being on that corner is not big enough to tip the scale of what happens to him next. But I do know that after the hug should follow a sharing. I can do more than I’m doing. Because I can split a sandwich. I can share my fruit. I can find some coins. Not his life, maybe not even the day, but at least it may alter the moment. If only because it did happen today, rather than something that might happen tomorrow.


I’ll go back with something to give to the man with the sad, blue eyes. I will know his name.


Good Life


Addendum: Mark is his name.


3 Responses to “Blue”

  1. Myrna Pfeifer says:

    Thank you for sharing the depth of your humanness. We are all connected and can lend and share a hand however we are able in that moment of looking into another’s eyes.
    See you in October
    Bless you

  2. Cylia T Wong says:

    Dear Diane – our connection to each other is all that we have. Your writing resonated and touched me deeply. Thank you. I hope to see you even for a few fleeting moments. In gratitude, cylia

  3. Mira says:

    Diane, my dear friend,

    Every once in a while I sneak in here, and read your simple, multi layered, and very touching stories, again and again…I can learn a lot from them about you, about places, and people you love. I find them interesting and always meaningful to you.
    Have I ever told you that I was happy to have access to your talent… but I`m delighted to have you as a friend in the first place…Hope to see each other more often, and talk, and laugh, having tea, and sharing ideas, and some happy moments …. My respect and love, Mira xoxo

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