I had been needing to rush to the store for the past couple of days, and something told me that Friday was it.  The sun wasn’t too bright and the morning dew was just settling in.  My hair was down and frizzled-curly, thickness- enough for a man to not run his fingers through.  I smelled of coconut and Vaseline, and my grey shirt ruffled up quite a bit of cotton warmth to make a teddy bear feel comfortable.  This day couldn’t have been more perfect.  Not a whole lot was going on outside.  A good neighbor of mine worked in his garage while a lady, all of eighty, took a morning walk.  It was nearly 8:30, and I reminisced on the boys playing basketball and a little blonde girl trying to skateboard outside.  Thought so much that I skid on my brakes thinking she was skating in front of the car.  In such slow motion she passed.  Her long hair whisked in the wind and a whisper of laughter echoed under the music playing in the car.  I giggled to myself and headed on to the corner market about a half a mile from the house.
An older gentlemen, fair skinned, made a chair out of his walker.  He was smoking a cigarette, menthol, probably Salem, because I recognized the smell from when I was child suffering in the car with my mother.  I waved to him as I drove by and the look on his face turned from despair to purity.  It was like he jumped at the greeting.  I thought, maybe no one has ever greeted him before.  That can’t be possible.  If I were to guess his age I would say 74.  I parked my car and walked to the entry way of the store.  He sat a few feet away, my right from the entrance.  He peaked over and I caught a quick glance of his red eyes.  I didn’t even hesitate I walked over to give a proper salutation.  “When’s the wed…”  I cut him off, “How are you this morning?”  He quickly responded, “Fine, when’s the wedding?”  I was confused and thought maybe he was confusing me with someone else.   I played along with him, “New Years.”  I offered a little laughter and he replied, “God bless you!”  I didn’t understand, maybe he was blessing me on this future relationship I wasn’t going to have.  Standing next to him the sun was becoming so intense, but for some reason I didn’t want to leave, at least not at that moment.
“What happened to your other car?”  Taking out of my basking of the sun, I was thrown off.  “What other car?”  I looked at him and he looked straight ahead smoking his Salem.  “The black one.”  I once did own a black Toyota but how did he know about it.  It had to have been over six months now since I’ve driven it.  “If you’re talking about the Toyota, it had too many problems.”  “Really.”  He replied.  “Yeah…”  I continued the story to this stranger.  “I was downtown and the engine belt came off.  I was so scared I almost had a wreck.  My father showed up to help me and had the car towed.  I figured why put a bunch of money into that raggedy thang and just buy a new car.”  “So that’s your new car?”  He asked.  “No.  That’s my dad’s.  While he’s in Iraq I’m gonna drive it.  When he comes back he can help me pick a new car, since I really don’t know what I’m doing.”  Our conversation was interrupted.  As he lit up another cigarette, a gentleman approached to use the lighter.  “You say your dad is in Iraq?”  He started the conversation again.  “Yeah, for about six months now.”  “How many times has he been to Iraq?”  He asked.  “Twice.  Iraq twice, Afghanistan twice, and Africa twice.”  “Hmm, God bless him.”  He sure has a thing for blessing folks.  “Yeah, that’s a hard life to live.”  I said. “My brother’s in the military too.”
“Your dad army?”  “Yes he is, every since he was 18.”
“How’s your brother?”  “He’s fine.  He suffers from post…trauma…”
“PTSD?”  His eyes widen as he recited the letters. “Yeah that’s it.”
“Me too.”  He replied quickly  “Really!”
“Yep I was in the army nine years six months eighteen days.”
“That’s it?” He took the cigarette out of his mouth, “Whatchu wanna know the minutes?”  I let a few seconds pass by before I replied  “So, how many minutes?”  He let out this huge laugh knowing he couldn’t figure out those minutes. “Yep!  I fought in ‘Nam.  And see back then they didn’t have a name for that PTSD.  They didn’t even try to find out what was wrong witcha they just sent you on ya way.”  “How then did you deal with it?”  I said very concerned.
“A lot of drinking.  I lost my family over it.  That’s why I ain’t got nobody now.”
We stood there in complete silence.  I thought to myself,  I wonder if anyone every told him thank you.  Would it even matter now.  See life is so precious and shouldn’t be taken for granted.  I bet he knows a lot about the people that pass him by, because he pays attention to them all.  Life is about celebrating the small things and I am sure he does as he sits in his walker in front of the corner market.


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