The Image of Me

Tonight was Wednesday night, the night of the week that my wife has her Avon party with the women from the neighborhood.

Stopping here, at the pub, every Wednesday, I eat and have a few beers while waiting for the women to go home. The pub is only about six blocks from the house.

(I can not see myself sitting there, watching them smell different perfumes and trying different shades of lipstick and eye makeup.)

As I finished my meal and drank my second beer, I noticed a man (just a few years older than me) come in the pub.

(I was not a young man, myself.) His clothes were filthy, not just dirty! His hair was down in his eyes. His face had not seen a razor in months. His hands were not much cleaner.

Sure enough, he came over to my table, licked his lips, and asked if I would buy him a beer. He slid onto the bench, not even waiting for a 'yes' or 'no'.

I motioned for the waitress to bring him a glass of beer.

He hollered at the waitress, telling her to make it a double.

He just nodded his thanks and it was gone in two gulps. I wondered how much this was going to cost me.

About 10 beers later, he started talking and sobbing ... wiping his eyes with a napkin and using his sleeve to wipe his nose.

(We all need someone to talk to. But, why me?)

He started telling me how he had been where I was now. He said, by the suit and tie I was wearing, I must be an executive of some sort. He pointed to his jacket and pants ~ saying they use to be a suit, some time ago.

He had been married to a beautiful woman; had two lovely children, a nice home that was paid for, and a good job. There was nothing money could not buy that he would not have gotten them, no matter what the price.

When he got off work, he would stop at a place like this, have a few beers (maybe two or three). Then, he would go home and be late for supper. The next night, the same thing. Finally, it got to be all night.

When he decided to go home, there was no home anymore. He put his key in the door. But, it would not open. He knocked on the door. She opened it and told him he was not needed there anymore. She told him to go back to the bar, his beer, and his friends. But, there were no friends, no job either.

There was a moment of silence.

Looking at my watch while being sarcastic, I told him I had a home to go to ... and a family.

As I got up, he did too.

I paid for his free beers and said, "Goodnight."

He said, "Mister, I would like to show you my home. Itís only a few blocks away."

I thought for a moment and said, "Ok," feeling sorry for the guy.

As we got outside, I asked which way and he pointed in the direction that I had to go. We walked a few blocks and turned another direction. Funny, the same way for me.

We walked another couple of blocks and he started slowing down. I asked him what was wrong.

He said we were getting close to the house and he did not want her to see him, as she would call the police. (I was telling myself that this was just a coincidence, that we lived on the same street.) I asked him where he had lived. He pointed and said, "Over there."

I followed his arm and it followed to my house. I told him he was crazy, that was my house.

He just smiled and said, "Was."

I ran across the street, put my keys in the door, and stopped. Then, I began praying that my key would open the door. It did! As the door opened, I heard my wife tell the kids that Daddy was home.

I knelt down and hugged them tightly. Then, I stood up and embraced my wife, holding her close to me so that she could never get away, ever.

Next, I turned around and looked out the front door. Across the street, in the shadows, I could see the man smile, wave, and walk away.

© 1994 by Robert H. Gilbert, Jr.

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