We sat across from one another at a local bakery,
two isolatos on distant sides of a big marble table.
You were narrow shouldered, lean, almost emaciated,
wore a tight nylon shirt and a biking cap,
had gaudy rings on half your dirty fingers.
I watched you spill tobacco from a pouch,
shred the leaves as if washing your hands
in the heaped-up pile
then roll yourself a cigarette.
I should have let you be,
but you gave off so much energy,
took up so little space,
I figured I had something elemental to learn.
You raised your head reluctantly,
I put my earphones down.
“I don’t have to answer your questions,” you said.
“But you already know that.”
You were a master of ending conversations, I decided.
Still, I lingered at your last sentence,
stared a little too long,
wondered what I was missing.
Your face was creased, pinched,
perhaps a puzzle, perhaps no different than mine,
dangerous, though only if you could see past yourself.
Thinking you might have more to say I watched
you sweep up your tobacco, pocket your tools,
You didn’t go far. I could see you
fifty feet from my side of the window
enjoying a cigarette that floated on the end of a silver holder.
I was surprised by your flair,
expected burnt fingers and narrowed eyes
agitation and movement
a muttering monologue to the universe.
But you were on your knees now,
drawing a portrait
of the earth I learned later,
using chalk on a canvas of concrete,
circling your globe
with a description of your own struggles.
I looked up just as you bowed to the ground
and blew away the excess,
igniting a puff-explosion
of blue-green dust.