MISS MOOX + time

Anonymous man walking

Along the main stretch of road where I live, a man walks. Nearly every day I see him, usually on my commute to work in the mornings. His regularity almost makes you think he has somewhere to go; his demeanor makes you question.

He is tallish and whip-thin and slightly balding; every few seconds he turns to the traffic and glances back with tormented, questioning eyes. As if he is looking for something. Or someone, perhaps. Someone who might stop to care about his plight or to pick him up or to answer the questions of his past.

He is always clutching a lidded paper cup of coffee in one hand; his other hand swings free, along with his legs; everything about him swings with his long, purposeful stride. His skinny legs swing out from his pelvis and give him the look of a man on a mission. Somebody has given him an enormous wide yellow jacket with a reflective stripe on the back, to make him more visible to the long rows of traffic that pass him every day. An act of kindness, it only serves further to mark out his vulnerability, his difference, his inability to care for himself, his desperation. Cloaking him with pity.

Sometimes I see him paused by a roadside tree. He is carefully examining the leaves and branches with great intensity and an almost scientific curiosity. As if he were a horticulturalist probing them: for what? Signs of rot? A need for pruning? I have seen him do that, too, with great deliberation, deciding by some mysterious process what bits of growing tree need to be lopped off and performing that service. Did he work in an orchard or a greenhouse in some past life?

I wonder about him. I wonder where he lives. Do people take care of him? Does he have a family? What made him the way he is? Was he born simple, or was it an accident? What are his thoughts? For in my experience such people very often have something driving them. Haunted by a fear or a hurt that they cannot forget, something in their mind goes twisted and takes over. Why does he walk? For what is he looking when he continuously glances back as if he were searching for something, or merely going to cross the highway, but never does? What is his name? Is he just simple, or autistic? I guess I will never know. Or if I do, will it merely strengthen the curiosity and pity with which I view him, and then cause it to dwindle and grow less until it dies out to nothing and I merely think, "Oh, there's what's-his-name" as I pass him on the street.

I don't know. Maybe I will never know. But until or unless I do, he stands in my mind along with all those other curious, pitiable figures I have seen, mainly on the streets of larger cities, mumbling or crying or shaking out their inner hurts. The core of pain has grown and taken them over till it has eaten them out from the inside like a geode, leaving not sparkling crystals but the ruined, burnt-out shell of a man or a woman. Barely human, they nevertheless exist, until death snatches what is left that he has not already claimed. Maybe injury or a fate of birth has contributed to their doom. Who are they? Were they once somebody's daughter, somebody's precious, cared-for, wanted baby? Were they once someone's wife, someone's father, someone's brother, someone's aunt? Who knows them and who looks out for them?

And more importantly: does God care? Does he see that they exist? Does he want them, as he seems to want everyone else? Can he help them? Can such ruined shells ever be restored to what we term humanity? Can his love penetrate even the most devastated outside and re-create by some miracle the structure that was long ago destroyed? I don't know. I don't know if I will ever know. I only hope, and wonder.

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