Not quite ready to depart

May 15, 2008

From my car at the stoplight on NE 20th at Sandy Boulevard in Portland, I see a man so frail that the warm breeze might whisk him away. Bent at the waist, he’s shuffling forward six inches with each hesitant step. He reaches the sidewalk to my right. His pale yellowed skin appears brittle and translucent, like parchment held up to light. A hand-rolled cigarette droops from his lips.

He looks only half in this world. A final exit must be close.

He makes it to the crossing signal. A young woman on a bike cruises to a stop next to him. He cranes his head toward her, mechanically as if someone inside him is struggling with ropes and pulleys. He raises a hand in a slow wave, speaks to her, and smiles so broadly his eyes close. She smiles back.

He shuffles away along Sandy, faster.

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