BTL COVID-19 Resource Guide

As the world continues to learn more about coronavirus and its spread, it's vital to stay up-to-date on the latest developments. However, it's also important to make sure that the information being distributed is from credible sources. To that end, Between The Lines has compiled, [...]

Parting Glances: One hour diary

By | 2006-04-05T09:00:00-04:00 April 5th, 2006|Uncategorized|

I haven’t patience to work today’s Free Press crossword puzzle as I wait for the current BTL to be delivered at The Potato Place, my favorite breakfast nook on the Wayne State campus.
I consider owners Joyce and Cliff Berman friends, and know the staff by name. I give macho Bryan the sports section and Cynthia, the daily horoscope. Cee Cee shows me pictures of her grandbaby Myanna, and center stage Jackie says hers is due in June.
Cliff’s mother Shirley, who recently retired, volunteered at Motor City Pride 2003 and brought along her Florida sister. Shirley’s Jewish, treats customers like family, and, for whatever reason of amusement, calls me Sir Charles.
I have my usual two bananas (liberally dotted with brown spots), a 12-once cup of coffee (my daily limit), three shots of cream, and carrot cake — deliciously baptized with a cold pouring of 2% low fat milk.
Still waiting for BTL I read Dan Savage and Jack Lessenberry (Triangle Board Chairperson Jim’s brother) in Metro Times and skim through the None of the Above want ads. I’m interrupted in my reader voyeurism by marathon walker Jean, whose nonsense stream of consciousness is tagged with her usual, “Have you got a dollar for me today?”
Of the many freelancers who work the students on Warren Avenue for handouts — and who are just as politely shooed away by the campus cops — Jean is the only one whose upkeep I modestly contribute to. She holds dual citizenship with the Land of the Lost — a place I visited once upon a time.
It’s no exaggeration that Jean’s waking hours are spent pacing, all the while talking to herself in a dialog that’s 52 Pick Up from beginning to end. If cement ever yields to shoe leather Jean’s well-worn paths will engrave many busy city streets.
Today her lips are overstatements in red. Her cheeks are pink circles. Her hair, a self-scissored shag. Her faded jacket, pinned cleverly in place. She sees me and rambles. “I went to Belle Isle and wrote two poems. My neighbor plays music too loud. Can I get a loan from Lansing? My father takes me to the zoo Sunday. I’m walking to Royal Oak in five minutes. Do you like swings or slides?”
But Jean has lucid moments and knows right from wrong. If she borrows a quarter or asks for credit, she repays it. Crazy as her complicated life is, she has the fortitude (and the calves) to stalk it — and out talk it — right down to the final STOP sign.
How old are you, Jean? I ask, pretending surprise when she says 62. Didn’t you go to Wayne years ago? Yes, in chemistry. How much money do you get from handouts usually? Four-fifty. Too much candy’s not good for you, Jean. I need energy, she says, adding she has no place at home for cats or bamboo trees.
Once when standing next to me at the counter, she whispered, “Are you happy with your life?” The way she said it — confidentially, not wanting to give hurt or offense, but asking gently as friend to friend — caught me off guard. Not waiting for my stammered reply, she turned and hurried out the door.
Fully absorbed in her lonely life’s only allocated pleasure, Jean’s back pacing today. Ten steps forward. Ten steps back. Ten steps forward. Ten steps back. Are you happy with your life? Are you happy? Are you . . . ?

About the Author:

Charles Alexander