Close Encounter

By -

It is early morning, with the fog-shrouded sky concealing the puny amount of sunlight on the horizon. I am walking my two large dogs on the wild lawn of Palo Alto’s main post office, constructed during the Great Depression and looking every bit worse for the wear. The dogs are both gnawing on long strands of grass, having found the very specific variety of plant that they seem to favor, and I gaze off into the parking lot on the other side of Hamilton Avenue.

A big black homeless guy (let’s called him BBHG) is standing in the middle of the empty lot, staring off to nothing in particular, then he looks up toward the grey sky. An imagined question from him enters my head: “Who am I? Why am I even here?” Just as quickly, my imagined answer comes from my inner voice: “You are the ears, eyes, touch, and voice of God. The hard part is that you actually have to act that way.”

So the dogs decide to move on, and the BBHG is ambling away from the parking lot, having never actually exchanged a single word with me. He crosses the street at a distance, and I cross the other way. Unexpectedly, he shouts out at me, this time with real words and not the fictional conversation in my head.

BBHG: “Which one you like better? The black one or the other one?”

Me: “The black one. She’s the love of my life.”

BBHG (laughing heartily): “I knew it! I knew you were going to say that! I like the other one.”

Me: “That’s because he’s pretty, but he’s obnoxious. He can fool people that way. I’ve got a white one at home that’s even worse.”

BBHG (turning serious): “You’ve got a sense of humor. That’s the trouble with people in this town. They don’t have a sense of humor.”

Me: “They think too much of themselves.”

BBHG: “You right! You right, man! You should write down whatever you think of!”

And so here we are.