two bodies, two tales

Act I – Saturday, early afternoon, Oakland.

Moving toward home on a Saturday morning flyering trip to Oakland, I'm making tracks down Craig Street, almost to the Catholic high school. An accordion folder in one arm, packing tape in the other, I feel rather conspicuous, but the older woman walking my way seems distracted by something other than my intentions. She slows down directly ahead of me, peers to her left, into or behind a bush, looks a bit concerned, then keeps moving as planned.

Expecting possibly a strange type of mushroom or a rabid squirrel, I sneak a look at the very spot she was just eyeing. What meets me is, in fact, a full-grown man, middle aged, fairly nicely dressed, lying in the grass on his back, arms folded.

What am I to think? Clearly he hadn't suffered a massive heart attack and fallen, or if he had, coincidence made a pretzel of his arms like that. He looks pretty relaxed, but is he breathing? Not sure. I presume so, since the old woman, clearly more reliable than I, kept walking. So I too keep going, thinking about all the rhetoric we put out about how even if THEY saw someone dying on the street, THEY wouldn't stop to help, and feel a bit like them. I also think about the time we were in Bowling Green for the Underground Publishing Conference and our friend who was with us was “stopped by the police” while sleeping on the front lawn of the house in a sleeping bag. I'm not sure when it's acceptable protocol to try to roust someone who's lying on the ground.

(I never heard anything about anyone found dead there that day, so I'm going to go on thinking he was just sleeping.)

Act II – Tuesday evening, at the co-op.

Amongst the shoppers, in addition to the housemates and myself, are a young couple with their daughter, probably 4 or 5 years old. They get in one checkout line, we get in the other, the girl continues dancing around in the front of the store, blissfully and admirably unaware. She draws near me, and suddenly clasps my hand, still singing. At first I'm not sure what to do. When a little one goes for your hand unannounced you don't immediately draw back the way you would if it was an adult. Presumably she thinks I'm her father. I look down with a smile and say, “I don't think you know who I am!”

She finally looks up and realizes that her dad's in the OTHER line. Without a word, she skitters across the floor to her parents. A few seconds later she looks back at me and says: “You're good!”

“I'M good?!” I reply. “YOU'RE the one who just started holding my hand without even looking to see who I was. I think THAT's pretty good.”

Then I think for a moment.

“Well, or bad, depending on who I am.”

The moral of these stories? Not completely certain, but I would assume it involves watching where you're going, but not being afraid to hold hands now and then.


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