So we were sitting having a cup of tea in a small cafe on Bloor Street waiting for Marissa and the girls. When they arrived, Marissa went with Sadie to the washroom and Ruby joined us at the table. Seconds later a man appeared at my side. He moved slowly and carefully, his face was handsome and fragile at the same time. His clothing had not been laundered for a very long time. He had stopped because he noticed Joe's hat on the window sill next to me.
The hat in question looked like it was a Tully hat but it wasn't. He was fascinated by the hat and he reached down and with a gentle hand touched the top of the hat. He was talking about the hat and how it was a special hat. He said that he remembered being there when we bought it, I told him that we'd bought it in the States and he paused and then started talking about the cost of the had he threw out several numbers and when he hit one that was close to what we had paid, he said, with a huge grin, "I knew it, I just knew it."
He and I chatted a bit about hats and he looked at me, his eyes burning into mine. It was like he couldn't believe he'd made a connection, that he was having a conversation. I felt his loneliness and his need. I also felt the firm disapproval of other people from other tables. But those same people looked at me with disapproval when I entered and began moving chairs around to make a space for myself. I felt more a kinship to him than I probably ever would with them.
It was nearing time to leave and I wanted him to know, before we got up and abruptly left, that we would need to go soon. He didn't want the conversation to end. His eyes teared up. He began telling me more about the hat and again and again his hand went down to touch the top of it. He always showed his hands, palms up, to ensure that I could see that they were clean and they posed no threat. He seemed to know the stereotypes that people have about people like him and wanted to let me see that he was gentle and safe and kind.
Now we were getting up to leave. Marissa and Sadie were back and it was time to go to the car and go home. He followed us out of the store and continued to talk. Now about the weather. His hand reached out, not asking for change, but for a chance to stay connected a little while longer. He walked along side of us and then, without a word, turned and went on his way.
I saw people veer away from him as I watched him walk away. I saw the fear on their faces. He was a gentle man with clean hands and a fragile face. They had nothing to fear, except maybe, the fact that that fear would keep them from spending just a little time with a man, who wanted nothing, but a little time and a little attention.
It's was just a few moments of my time.
But, they were important ones, because I learned about Tully hands and the clean safe hands of a stranger.
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