April 2018

Friday, March 29, 2013

Where's There?

On my way to yoga most mornings, I pass a man whose name I don't know. I call him "There," as in "Hey There."

He's been on the same corner almost every morning. When I hear, "There's my girlfriend!" I look up to see him by the fire hydrant in front of the brick apartment housing. When I look up I smile my lop-sided smile and greet him, too: "Hey There!" 

He's There rain or shine.  I suppose he's there because someone inside doesn't want him to smoke.

When I look up, he's generally standing in his raincoat under his blue and white umbrella. He's African-American, maybe in his eighties, with white sideburns and white whiskers. He has large yellow teeth, and a gap where he's missing several teeth on the right. He's always smoking.

Once, when we set our intention for our yoga class, our teacher Victoria suggested that we dedicate the class to someone we don't know: maybe a stranger we'd seen on the bus, the person who'd bagged our groceries, or the one behind the counter at the gas station mini-mart.

I dedicated my practice to There. 

Lately, however, There hasn't been there. His absence has me worrying if he's okay, and it has me thinking about the people who are in my life for a blip and then disappear. How are they all?

When the news of my brain tumors hit the Facebook highway of my first Washington State high school students, I heard from many whom I hadn't seen since 1996. It was great to remember each of them and to know that they remembered me. 

One student, Alan, even quoted a ridiculous line from Shakespearean sonnet 30, a sonnet we'd discussed together: 

Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.

Today my friend Val, a woman I met in a graduate school class in 1992, joined me for yoga and lunch. I haven't seen Val in years, so when we talked we caught up on a few of the stories in one another's lives. 

The conversation was easy and affectionate, as if we were in one another's daily lives. Dad says this is the mark of a deep friendship, one where the years melt when we see one another again. 

Though I generally try to argue with Dad, in this I think he's right. And I gave thanks for the friends who are here everyday, for the connections that stand the test of time, and for the friendly strangers who cheer my days though we know such small slices of another's lives. 

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