Robert is walking on the other side of the street, peering at me through his good eye. (Through his good eye, rather than with his good eye, because when he looks at me from that far away I get the sense of being looked at from behind a telescope. It’s as if he felt that if he were to blink or lose focus, he might not be able to find me again.) I wave to acknowledge that I see him and he slows down, then stops.
He turns his head, keeping me in sight, as I cross the street. When I reach him, I ask, “How are you.”
He says the usual, “I’m hanging in there.”
“Do you have a place to stay these days?”
“No. I was staying at Angela’s, Linda’s sister. But she’s out of town for a late Christmas thing. She’s taking care of her mom who has diabetes – just like my mom.”
“That’s too bad.”
“I guess I should watch out. It’s supposed to run in the family.”
“Say, I wonder if you could loan me five dollars. I’d like to go over to the coffee shop for a cup of coffee and some donuts. That’s what I want. I’d really like some donuts.”
“You know, you should eat better. You should get some soup or something like that.” I stop to think of something that he’d be more likely to eat, “Or if not soup, I don’t know . . . hamburgers. You’ll be less likely to get diabetes if you eat better.” I half made that up. I don’t really know what I’m talking about.
“I didn’t realize that. I’ll have to think about that. Ok. Soup and hamburgers.”
He’s trying to repeat my words so that I’ll understand that he’ll consider my advice. But he’s not really worried about his health or about piecing together money for a week’s rent at the dumpy hotel. He’s busy thinking about filling his stomach and passing a couple of hours’ time. How could there be a this week or a this year when it’s always this afternoon.