Albert and the Underwear Man
Wednesday, March 9, 2005
His hands wring together practically shouting that a man in his underwear should not be standing in front of the ice cream store at seven a.m. on a Wednesday morning.
A well dressed young man stands awkwardly in front of the ice cream shop on a busy street. He shuffles his large feet from side to side in boxy black shoes nervously, cautiously staring at the few people already out on the streets in the cold morning air. He is lanky, gangly even. Baggy khaki pants hang sadly on his thin, young legs. The dark suit coat he's wearing drapes loosely over his broad shoulders and concave chest like a navy flour sack on a scarecrow. The starched, white oxford shirt looks like it is the only thing keeping the tightly drawn, red and blue striped necktie from strangling him to death where he stands. This awkward looking young man does not wear a suit very often.
Albert. His name tag says to the rest of the street and the world that he is Albert. He looks like an Albert, not an Al. He may never be called Al except by those who don't know him—telemarketers, the guy who valet parks his car ten years from now, his co-workers too busy to care. Albert must be headed to an interview or a seminar, hence the nametag at seven a.m. The whole street knows his name at a glance if those out early this morning wish to simply look at Albert's chest and read the jaunty blue ink below "Hello, my name is:".
Albert startles and lurches back into the doorway of the ice cream shop. He sees the rumpled canvas covering a bench in front of him erupt soundlessly and the canvas part dramatically like a magician's cape being flung open. A homeless man lying there in front of the ice cream shop sits up and greets the day with a large yawn and stretch unfolding like a weed in the sun. He curls his hands into fists arching his back then belches loudly and laughs. This weed of a man stands up and takes off his coat, his shirt, and then his pants leaving him in a bright blue pair of boxer shorts and expensive looking sandals.
Albert watches nervously and paces the length of the store front; his eyes dart from his feet to the man and quickly back to his feet again. The boxy shoes trip him up several times, finding every crack and seam in the concrete sidewalk as he does double take after double take looking at the man in his underwear standing on the street in broad daylight. Albert's body language screams in agony that this is all wrong. His hands wring together practically shouting that a man in his underwear should not be standing in front of the ice cream store at seven a.m. on a Wednesday morning. It's not right, it's simply not done.
Homeless and in his underwear the man who just woke up from his nap on the public bench sets to spreading out his clothing. He carefully lays it all on the back of the bench, draping it over the arms of the bench after wringing out rain water left from the night before. A downpour after midnight drenched him as he slept alone on the street like so many nights before. Now the morning sun is drying the all black outfit by the side of the street. He smoothes the wrinkled wet cloth with his hands methodically, whistling as he goes, a light vaporous steam rises to meet him as the sun reaches up high in its first attempts to touch the center of the sky.
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