The Courtyard Walker
One day my best friend’s father came home from work with an enormous smile on his face. This was an event. He detested his job as an insurance adjustor in downtown Philadelphia and usually weariness and sadness weighed down on him by the end of the day.
His son, naturally asked, what had occasioned this festive mood, and the father replied: “It was a beautiful day so I decided to have lunch outdoors at City Hall courtyard. I saw your friend Burt walking by. He didn’t notice me, but I have to tell you I’ve seldom seen a happier-looking man. No job, no money, and he’s smiling like he owned the world.” My best friend’s father shook his head and laughed, “I got such a kick out of that.”
I remember that twenty-something stroller through courtyards. Bit of a swagger, but he’d split his last dollar with you. Outwardly skeptical but an incurable romantic. Just starting to find his writing voice but too often seeking safety in being a ventriloquist’s dummy for authors he considered far above him. Loved to laugh, loved to read. Don Quixote with a broken-down Chevy instead of a spavined horse. If it were possible I’d be his friend in a heartbeat.
If I could travel back in time from 2012 and temporarily detain this jaunty walker, what would I say to him? “Enjoy it now because it doesn’t last?” No, it did last for the most part, even in the face of grief, pain and fear. “Take more chances?” Yes, that would be good advice. He often stuck his foot in the surf but retreated from the waves. But here’s what I, an emissary from some 40 years in his future, would want to tell him most: “Keep walking, Burt. People are going to try to block your path or trip you up, but keep walking as though your life depended on it, because it does. You’ve got many loves and a lot of loss ahead of you. You’re going to be on a first-name basis with poverty; it won’t ennoble you, but it won’t kill you either. Just keep those feet moving, Kid Nomad. You’ll be amazed where they take you. Oh, and Susan? Drop her. She’s cheating on you. You’ll thank me later.”