Just when I think I’m at a stage of life where things are straightforward and clear, I get a curve ball. I’m doing a quick shop at Trader Joe’s. As I enter the produce section, there is a man fondling the bananas. Yes, fondling. He eventually pulls off only one. I’m intrigued. His clothes are ill fitting and shabby and the seat of his trousers seems oil soaked. When he turns towards me, his long, stringy, unkempt hair frames a gaunt face that is missing several teeth. I peg him as homeless.
Two aisles later, we pass in the frozen food section. His walk is jerky and odd. Definitely not Parkinson’s, so I wonder if he might have Tardive Dyskinesia. I vaguely remember it has something to do with taking too much anti- psychotic medication. I smile at him as we pass and he smiles back.
Later, as I stand in the checkout line with my small bag of five items, he comes up behind me, still carrying one banana and a small bottle of water. I offer to let him go first.
“You only have two items,” I say. “I have five.”
He insists I go first. I thank him and checkout, silently wondering if it’s perhaps he is getting his food free from the cashier.
As I maneuver out of the parking lot, he crosses in front of my car with that stumbly gait. I wait for him, assuming that he might be going to the homeless encampment half a block away. However, as he gets towards my side, he gestures at me to roll down my window. I do.
“I was wondering if you’d like to come over to my house for dinner tonight and watch a movie,” he asks sweetly. I’m stunned to almost wordlessness.
“I’m sorry, I can’t,” I reply, “but that is sweet of you to ask.”
“Ok,” he says and goes on his way.
I wrestle with myself all the way home. Does he really have a house? Is he delusional? Am I? Then I realize that it doesn’t matter. For the whole time I was judging him, he was looking at me with hopeful kindness. I saw only a burned out car and missed the fact that it was really a BMW.