I stood at the bus stop, the sky freshly blushing with day. I stood alone and traffic was light to non-existent. At the bus stop and to my left, there’s an apartment building with a small parking lot marked by a wood fence. While standing there, I could see just over the fence and briefly I caught sight of bald head bobbing slightly. There was a car parked there and minutes earlier I thought I heard a tv or a loud conversation from inside the building. Another person getting ready for work, I wrongly surmised. But after a moment, still no traffic and no bus crowning the hill across the street, a figure emerges from behind the fence and stands at the corner waiting for the light. It was a bald Mexican man, baggy dark brown pants with frayed hem and a blue and white hospital gown open down the front. He stood at the corner for a moment, then saw me and approached. His belly smooth and hairless, his head sheared and sprouting fresh black. His body was lined with EKG electrode pads like nipples. His left arm in a cast, and on his right wrist a plastic yellow bracelet, his fingers hanging loose and bored. Of course the man speaks no English. As he got closer, he said something, then something else and I finally had nothing else except to shrug “No se”. He stood for a moment and stared at the bus sign above my head for a while. Nothing on the street moved, signal lights at the corner clicked. Birds sang. The freeway across from us harmonized like rushing water. For years I feared my high school Spanish teacher would corner me in Safeway as an adult and give me a quiz. I expected to feel helpless and dumb, but I never expected a moment like this. He spoke and all I could do was watch his grayed teeth and tongue then the horizon after he gave in to the silence and stared at the bus sign above my head an untranslatable halo, then out towards the distant hill and sunrise. A full minute. A little more. Then, he quietly walked away and turned back towards the fenced parking lot.
The hospital is three blocks over from where we were standing. Seeing men in hospital wear walking the street is common as seeing a mailman. Most of the men (and women) I see are on the street to smoke. Once I looked out my apartment window and saw a man walking as an apparition might– in a long white hospital and pulling along an IV drip on a pole. That’s a good two blocks from the hospital.
The bus crowned the hill then pulled over for me. While the bus door creaked open, I turned towards the fence expecting to see the man at least peek back around, but didn’t. While I made my way to a seat, I could then see over the fence and saw him standing next to the car always parked in this part of the lot. He stood staring at his reflection in the passenger window. Standing and staring and wondering, like I did, how did he get there and what might be next.