a prayer for someone else for a change

one of my neighbors is an old white guy that smokes like a chimney

everyday he sits on the stairs and chain smokes and says hi to everyone that walks by

his skin is leathery and his moustache dances like an angry tarantula on his upper lip

he’s got teeth like tree roots that just out at odd angles and are roughly the same shade of dark earthen brown

he has this way of never write removing the cigarette from his mouth, it just is stuck by a layer of tar to his bottom lip and if he actually raises a yellowed finger it is only to exchange it with a fresh one he lights from the old one

i like to say hi and sit down by him and listen to him complain about the weather

it always too damn hot mikey

or about the government

need to learn to keep their grubby mitts outta my wallet mikey

sometimes he will talk about baseball and football, loves his rangers and cowboys and started keeping up with the steelers and white sox for me because he knows i quit keeping up with them years ago

so when i came out today his apartment door was open and his perch was unoccupied and strange men were walking in and out carrying boxes

a woman came out, about my age if i had to guess but about his daughter was far more likely as she had the innate ability of balancing a smoke on her lip

she saw me looking and asked if she could help me

i asked if something happened

she teared up and sat down in the same spot he always had and shook her head yes as ash sprinkled onto her lap

it was the smoking she said unaware or unconcerned of the one in her mouth

he’s been sick

now i thought he had shared nearly everything there was to share during our talks

i knew things about him I would rather he have kept to himself

he had a girlfriend that was more about the sex and she was a big girl but he didn’t mind that so much and she liked to get nasty and that he admired in a woman

some days he would stare off into space and get so graphic i would consider pouring bleach in my ears to rinse the filth out

but he never mentioned being sick

so he started sputtering and couldn’t catch his breath and his girl friend called an ambulance and now he was hospice but she pronounced it hoe spice

it sounded like powder for a prostitute’s crotch but i kept that to myself

doctors say he is in short time and all he wants is cigarette and to be left the hell alone

now that distinctly sounds like the man i know

you should go visit him she says and rattles off a care facility and i try and remember what she said

i thank her and say i will try but both of us know that is most likely a lie

i’ve watched enough people die and none of them cards for an audience

it’s a personal final act that only loved ones should be there for and while we were close as cordial neighbors can be this was one play i wasn’t in a rush to see

she hugged me and somehow managed to not dislodge the cigarette nor burn me so i considered it a win even if i am not really one for hugging strangers

and i went home and said a few kind words for him to the emptiness of space thinking in case there was someone listening they could maybe make it not painful for him

and then i asked the same invisible and most likely non-existent being to curse the tax collectors for him and make sure the air condition worked in his room

considered asking for something for me but that seemed to undermine what i was going for

and i figure if he or she or it or whatever was listening, he she it whatever was well aware of what i hoped for and would ignore it then like it always did

but it sure isn’t the same without him out there

3 thoughts on “a prayer for someone else for a change

      1. I’ve had a similar experience. When I’m alone I seem to notice more people. I feel closer to more people, care more. Not sure if that makes sense. I am sure he appreciate his time with you.

        Liked by 1 person

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