22 August 2009

A New Mystery

Early this evening I went out for a walk. I followed 34th Avenue, which intersects the street on which I live, to 21st Street, which is one of the main commercial strips in this area. I'd planned to stop at the Dunkin' Donuts for a cruller or croissant and to walk some more.

Well, just a few steps away from DD, a man slightly taller, and a few years older (I guessed) than me, smiled and said "hello."

That in itself may not seem so unusual. But it seems that in the past week or two, I've passed this man on the street every day. No matter how hard I try, I cannot recall having seen him more than a week or two ago, much less before my surgery. Yet, each time he and I passed each other, I tried, in my mind, to locate him: Something about him seemed familiar, especially when he turned, gave me a wan little smile (which I wasn't expecting from him) and said "hello."

Tonight the greeting led to a conversation. He is an inch or two taller than I am, neither thin nor fat. In other words, he's neither imposing nor frail. A shade lighter than mocha, I guessed him to be a Caribbean-Asian mix of some sort. As it turns out, he's from Guyana, and of black and Indian origin.

And he told me more about himself: how working for a small bank became a career and forced retirement from Chase after it acquired the bank for which he'd been working, how he made and lost money through lucky investments and unlucky business ventures and an even unluckier marriage, and about his dilemma: his desire for material comfort and his need for spiritual nourishment.

"Isn't that the basic human dilemma?" I wondered aloud.

He paused. I wasn't sure of whether he wasn't expecting my almost-rhetorical question--or, perhaps, whether he simply wasn't expecting it from me. Somehow nothing I'd heard from them surprised me--or, more precisely, hearing it from him

And so we queried each other further. He's one of those people who is, even in his most mundane details, mysterious. Oh, no, I said it: The M word.