The cigar man


He was whistling as he walked, turning to cross the road in front of the shoe repair shop, using the end of an old-fashioned umbrella as a cane. We nodded greetings.

He looked more alert than the last time I saw him, moving more quickly than I’ve ever noticed.

And I had to laugh because I don’t have a clue what his name is and I’ve never actually met the man, but I notice he’s in better health?

I first noticed him one summer, walking past small apartments with tiny porches outside their front doors.

It was hot and bright, but he sat in his long pants, thick socks, tan, battered coat over the dark green shirt, smoking a thick cigar.

I walked that way on purpose often that summer, curious. Each afternoon he was there, sitting on his stoop, smoking that cigar.

Once or twice I saw him in town, shuffling along the street with a new, wrapped cigar. It was as though every morning he walked to the tobacco shop, bought his one luxury, then saved it for after lunch.

And he was always happy.

He’s desperately thin, hollow cheeks sinking in below his cheekbones, bony calves swallowed by too big pants. But in the hot afternoon, smoke rising from the cigar, he is the picture of contentment.

Some time ago I heard he got hurt, collapsed or something on his morning walk to the cigar shop. We heard his name on the scanner, and others recognized it. I didn’t see him often after that and he slipped my mind.

He looked good today, whistling cheerfully as we passed on the crosswalk, nodding hello, swinging his umbrella-turned-cane with every step. He was wearing the same clothes he always does, but without the coat. And without the cigar.

I don’t know where he’s been or what he’s been doing lately, but it was nice to see him again.

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