photo by Pardes 2009
His suit jacket and slacks were black as well as his raincoat that was clearly not warm enough for such a winter night. He was neatly dressed and smelled of expensive cologne but his attache case was battered, of the out-of-style leather box variety. His billed cap in combination with his gold wire-rimmed glasses gave him more of an early 1900's eastern European air than that of a computer analyst from the large banking firm near the bus stop. He spoke to no one but did not appear reclusive or unfriendly. Yet there was something out of place, out of time about him ... so much so that I made sure I would be seated near him for closer observation. I patted my "stealth" Nikon 8400 camera in my backpack that would allow covert photos with its articulated LCD screen and low-light capabilities.
I needn't have worried that he would be disturbed by my observation or photographing him. As soon as he sat down, he opened his scuffed attache case and retrieved a speckled journal filled with pages of dated entries in black, red, blue, and green ink. I've been keeping a journal since I was old enough to hold a crayon, but somehow I was sure his was probably far more interesting. Why did I think that, I wonder?
I am not above eavesdropping on other people writings, particularly journal entries, but it was far too dark in the bus and my eyesight is limited by progressive lens bifocals. And so ... for the thirty minutes it took the bus to get to my bus stop, he wrote and I fantasized about what he was writing, what memories he was recording, or what existential questions he was wrestling with.
Within seconds I was sure he was a time-traveler from a Yeshiva in Poland in 1930. He had made his way to America and would send for his new wife and child as soon as he had enough money but somehow instead he found himself in Delaware in 2009 with a slice of pizza in his hand...
It was a silly fantasy but it took my mind off my nearly frostbitten toes that were stinging as they warmed up on the over-heated bus. I do not know who this young man is or anything about his history or ancestors, yet, in my mind when I think of him, I see a Rebbe rhythmically rocking and praying, Holocaust ghostly victims still shrieking without sound, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse racing toward Jerusalem, the millions who continue to visit the Wailing Wall, and yet ... despite it all there is still a joyful Fiddler on the Roof reminding us to find love, beauty, dreams, and humor in every moment and in every stranger's face.
I wish this young man well and hope there is a new young wife and baby that he goes home to every night to share the dreams and visions that he records in his journal written in inks of many colors.