A DAY IN D.C.

You know how they say, "It's been one of those days", sort of scraping their tongues through the words? They are talking about a day in the city.

A busy narrow street, dominated by the steeples of the National Cathedral. Short modern men scurry about in starched white shirts, and unpleasantly elegant women parade their newfound equality in every walk of life. The day is gloomy, fog is rolling in, and a hint of chilly dampness pervades the evening air, speaking of the oncoming night. The grey walls of the cathedral are echoed in the ashen faces of the poor and the drug ridden creeping in the shadows. Pasty faced pushers skulk around, just outside the yellow glow of the friendly lamplights, peddling their sins to the hopeless.

One man leaps about in a parody of humanity, jerking and twisting to the strings of some unseen marionette operator, his life seeming directed by insanity, but a few people throw coins to this unfortunate, who scrapes them up so quickly his hands are rubbed raw by the rough cement. I stand to the side, and having no pressing matters to attend to, I watch as the drama of this man's day plays out in front of me.

Two hours later I am still standing, but now I am talking to the man, who nervously answers my questions with abrupt bursts of words, angry and worried.

"What are you nervous about?" I asked the man.

"I am nervous because I don't know you, I don't know who you are or what you want, and I only have three dollars to my name."

Here is a switch. He is nervous because a stranger is hanging around him! If anyone, it is I who should feel apprehensive, this is the kind of man who murders for his supper.

"Why do you act so crazy?" Or am I the crazy one for asking this question I think to myself.

"Hey, I'm as sane as the next guy," he replies, looking over his shoulder, as if verifying his escape route. To escape from me presumably.

Suddenly he begins walking away from me rapidly, glancing back at me to see if I am following. I watch him for almost a block, his shuffling gait speaking of sadness and dementia, poverty and death. As I continue watching, he suddenly ducks into an alley and disappears from my sight. I too begin walking away, turning my collar up to the cold, and shuffling in my own manner, bespeaking of the hopes and fears of a generation. The beaten generation they call us, as our parents were the beat generation.

As I slowly make my way down the street, I look at the people lining up next to the heat grates of the Metro, preparing to keep warm in the best way that they know, their homelessness worn like a graveshroud, covering their faces with a grey cloak.

What did that last statement of his mean? As sane as the next man. The next man is just another homeless guy on the street next to him. Is that his comparison? As long as he's a little better off than the next guy, he's not crazy? What does that mean for me? If I am as sane as the next man, who's my next man?

Slowly I get on the Metro, and travel through the night to the rhythmic sounds of the clacking on the tracks below. Each click is like a drumbeat, as some unseen drummer pounds out his frustration on the cold unfeeling metal.

The crazy homeless guy figures in my dreams, growing a beard like the picture of Jesus my grandma wishes I would keep in my wallet, and flapping his rags of clothes into wings of light, he flies through a piercing eye-watering blue sky above me. He is singing, but the tune is not one I know, and the words are incomprehensible. As he flies higher and higher, leaving me to continue rolling helplessly on the dirt, I suddenly realize he is singing in French, my native language in the dream, although not in real life. The only problem is that I still can't understand him, and as he fades out of sight, tears trickle from the corner of my eyes, salting the ground beneath me, killing the sweet grass.