West of Winco


Friday night. 7ishpm.
The sun is setting in the West,
and I am walking into the Winco
for some certain chocolate indulgences.

I take the tunnel breezeway entry,
far up ahead and way out of sight.
Entering, I see a kid, high school age,
leaning on the shopping carts.

I spy his Winco shirt and tag.
I spy an employee standing still.
Silent and out of sight and facing
the West, like a statue, just staring.

I walk past him. 

Knit cap.
Wrist flair.
Face mask.
Long curly hair.
Camo cargo shorts.
Stopped and stilled,
frozen with eyes wide open,
staring and looking up at a burnt-out, orange aftermath
of where the sun used to be,
long past set now;
gone, and
no more.

I sense a longing.
I sense the circumstances.
I feel it everywhere in me.

A million questions being
asked and unanswered,
a hurt and a pain and an
of a deep, genuine kind,
interior feelings and energies
and even conversations going
back and forth in his head.

I swear to you,
when I walked by him,
I somehow felt his everything,
and so shared his everything,
and so knew his everything,
without really knowing anything
at all.

(I also understand the difference between psychosomatic experience and psychological projection)

And I felt the reality of this
in such a way and to such a
degree of connection
that I simply had to
and pause,
quite literally,
after walking past him
some five or six yards.

I stopped.
I breathed.
I felt. All of it.
I turned around.
He remained frozen,
Staring at the orange sky.

I walk towards him.

I approach him.

I speak.

“Hey man.”

He turned around, looked right at me,
eyes still wide and head still stuck in
whatever space it was just a single
millisecond ago.

I speak my last.

“I don’t know what you were thinking about when I walked by you just then,….. but there’s someone who wants you to know, right now….. you are so loved.”

His eyes,
still wide and open
from all the staring at
the empty orange sky,
suddenly softened,
and melted,
and glistened with salty tears
as the white rounds melted into a sparkling pair of squinting almonds,
the edges of his glistening eyes dancing with sudden sparks of light
and damming up a such a daunting drip whereby the next blink did
drain the drop down to the dregs in a single rush, drenching the front lawn of his face with
a sudden salty surprise, one he could taste.

The edges of his mask were vain in covering
the edges of his mouth, stretched out far past
the edges of his cotton cough cover, revealing
the edges of his newly formed, wet, fantastical smile,
the cheeks rising like two little siouxan hills,
his eyes ablaze with fiery gratitude and new courage,
his disposition firm now, holding despite the salty rain,
standing in courage and bravery,
feeling all,
seeing all,
embracing all,
taking it all in and finally feeling fearless,
having now been now seen and heard
and even, perhaps, understood.

With the face of a child,
the heart of a warrior, and
the mouth of a man reborn,
he looks at me with a new
mysterious fire burning in
his eyes somewhere, and I
spot some sacred secret of
his own, hard-won and holy
and his, personal and private,
as he says with a grateful nod:
“Thank you.”

(and one none would ever know or share, save he).

Later on, I’d leave the lot to see him still standing,
eyes up and body froze and face turned to the West,
the remnants of a blazing sun burning in his eyes,
heart alive and ever aflame with the latest tale of Truth’s luminosities in a darkening world.

And so I smile,
nod in return,
and walk away

toward the East.


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