*Not his real name
Mr. Sinclair shuffled into my life unassumingly.
He was gone for a time but retirement didn’t quite suit him.
I wondered if his wife died and he needed to stay busy.
Not my business.
I didn’t know the man.
From the stories they told, I imagined a giant.
His skin was burnt leather, so tough he never swatted the mosquitoes when they covered him in summer.
There was this book I had to read as a kid called Cry of the Conch by Peter Roop. It seems no one has heard of it these days. I only remember some parts, and I’ve inserted Mr. Sinclair into the Old Man’s role. He was stranded on a small island with a boy he never met and saved him from a hurricane by strapping them both to a palm tree…
I noticed his smile first – so big it filled his entire face, the wrinkles like deep cracks in the earth. You have to really listen to understand him because he talks as if half his jaw is wired shut.
Next I looked at his hands to see if they’re like the book character’s hands. Sure enough, they are. Massive and gnarled and strong as oak roots.
Hands that have only known hard work.
The first day we met, I introduced myself and sliced him a piece of cake. I had to lean sideways and tilt my head back to see his face.
No one in the office understands why I instantly called him friend.
Most people only see an illiterate 70-something-year-old man who digs ditches for the County.
But his Light’s so bright, it blocks out these things for me.
Our encounters are brief: he waves and smiles as he’s driving off in his truck; occasionally we meet in the hallway and say hello.
And each time I want to ask him, Where have we met before, Mr. Sinclair?