Friday, November 07, 2008

Meeting Jesus in Momentary Translation

The day is cold and gray and Martin rummages through the remains. He has ten minutes to collect all he can to fight back the wind that will rip through him when he walks out the door. He approaches me from behind, black hat pulled down over his wild, white hair; two teeth jut out from his otherwise toothless mouth as, with a thick French-Canadian accent, he loudly introduces himself and an onslaught of unintelligible jargon escapes. I look to Sean to help me escape this noisy, ancient remnant of a dying generation. I can’t help but shift back and forth on my feet because of my unease. I can hardly understand his sentences. I catch every second or seventh word. I move up and down one stair at a time. But his eyes, a shocking blue, pop because of the backdrop of his white hair; it’s as though they see right through me, which doesn’t help my discomfort. “Dark times!” I hear as I look into his eyes, followed by a rambling of various words and phrases. I interrupt him to introduce myself, realizing at this point that I don’t even know this crazy man standing directly in front of me. I extend my hand, which he takes. In that moment, I experience momentary translation as Martin introduces himself as Martin Carpenter, son of a Flemish-Jewish father and Scottish mother. A bit more rambling ensues until I hear, “haven’t slept in 45 years,” and I’m thinking, this guy is the antithesis of Rip van Winkle. Except that Martin gets about 30 minutes of sleep a night and roams the streets of Edmonton for the rest of the evening. My thoughts are interrupted again, “but God has given me a big heart and working hands; I worked with these hands all my life until the arthritis set in,” as he touches his shoulders and elbows. “Never been married, don’t have any kids, don’t sleep much” followed by another string I can’t understand. “Hey asshole!” I hear as Martin’s friend descends the stairs, “time to go.” And as they head out the doors, I stretch my head into the cold and gray and shout, “Martin, it was great to meet you,” though he just kept walking, which, unless it’s his thirty minute nap-time, he’s probably doing right now. 

1 comment:

maria said...

This is great, Dan, and I can totally see you in this interaction. And in the fabulous picture. You are missed!!