The Grey Man

There was greyness in your eyes, grey like things that are old, grey like the hair that hung limp and stringy to your shoulders. Grey that prevented the world from touching you, or you from touching it. Scary or maybe sad. Once, in another time, you were a person with people. Now you just keep to yourself with your things close around you on the table. They are like little people, like they are your children, like you don’t own them, just care for them. Possessions that you don’t possess. A notepad, a pencil, a calculator, an old tin pipe tobacco box, a solitary dice, and a copper penny.

I watched you for a long time. You tapped out numbers on your plastic calculator, over and over. You wrote long strings of digits into your Walmart notepad, then reflected greatly upon the numbers for a long time, as they revealed their secrets to you. Then you tapped out more numbers on your calculator, furiously, in earnest, comparing them with those in your notepad. You looked worried.

I wondered how you could stay in this public place and work your all-consuming numbers so diligently, unfettered, for such a long time, undisturbed by the ornaments of life. You tapped more; you wrote more numbers down. I thought it commendable that you brought your work, your numbers, your possessions, your life, to McDonald’s, to take such a risk upon yourself. To sit along with your things and your coffee. You had no food. Just your things, your coffee, and the numbers.

Your grey face, haggard and worn but somehow wise. The tribulation of your numbers, the strain and pressure of your calculations, the endless, timeless struggle, each sag and wrinkle on your face earned, providing answers to unknown questions. There seemed to be no answer in your reflection.

When you stood and finally spoke, I knew. I watched you over the top of my Big Mac. Long strings of speech flowed from your trembling lips, but your words were incongruent, incoherent. You spoke loudly, sincerely and honest. You spoke to no one, to everyone. Some listened, some didn’t. Your face was grey, your hair was grey, and all your aged dusty clothes were shades of grey. All you wanted was to blend in, to be visible, but to stay invisible.

2015 – May 9, 2020

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