Saturday, August 04, 2012


A gentle man by the name of Joseph has been frequenting my store lately.  He's a small man, a bit hunched over so it's hard to tell how tall he really is.  Thin, but not frail.  Long salt and pepper hair, long scraggly beard.  His clothes are not clean and hang very loosely around his thin frame.  I can't say for sure how old he is, maybe late 40's - 50's. 

He's had a hard life.

Joseph has a hard time looking at me.  His eyes dart back and forth constantly.  The teeth that he has are brown.

A combination of sweat, tobacco and urine makes me wonder if he's homeless. 

He  told me he lives in Howell, which is about 20 miles from my store.  He takes a taxi into town. 

Joseph wanders around downtown and shops.  3 or 4 canvas shopping bags are usually filled with little trinkets that he buys. 

He examines everything very closely.  There is careful thought in what he buys. 

As he wanders around the store he brings little items up to the counter and asks me: "Can you hold this for me please?" for each item that he wants.

I make a little pile.

"Can you please take the price tags off for me?"

That is important to him too for some reason. 

One of his purchases was a charm bracelet so I asked him if it was a present for a friend?  He just shook his head, "No, no it's for me." 

Today he came in and asked me the price for an African cloth I had in the window.  It was a bit on the pricey side, but I told him the price and he said never mind.  Then he wandered around murmuring..."It's OK...I'm just looking now." for about 10 minutes. 

He was bothered by the price you could tell.

There was a little magnet he found and brought it up to the counter.  "Can you hold this for me please?" 

"How much was that cloth again?"

I gave him the price...he shook his head.  I tried to redirect him to something else.  A little area rug made from recycled t-shirts. 

"Can you get that cloth for me please?  I really want it."

"Are you sure Joseph?  It's kind of expensive." 

"But it's so beautiful...I want it."  His response was almost a cry...not like a whiny child, but of someone desperate for something beautiful in his life.

I got the cloth out of the front window for him and he delicately examined it. 

I wrapped the cloth in tissue and he carefully added it to one of his bags. 

You cannot see expressions on Joseph's face. Or at least I can't see them. His face twitches quite a bit. He grimaces a lot but it seems to be a reflex or habit that he's developed.

It's very humid and hot out I gave him a small bottle of water that he gulped down quickly. 

"Ok...thank you.  See you again." he said softly as he walked out the door.

Thank you Joseph.