Last night, in that strange and vulnerable liminal space that exists between bouts of sleep, I remembered something I hadn't thought on for quite a long time. Maybe I called it back to me in a dream.
When I was about seven, I was in the grocery store with my mother. Up front was some great commotion, just beyond the great plate-glass windows. As I approached the sliding glass doors, I saw an arc of police officers cupped about the feet of an aged and indigent man. He lay there, supine and sprawling across the thin padding of the automatic door landing. He wore various earthen shades, and many layers of it, topped by a long overcoat, splayed open across the ground. Barely conscious as he was, everything about him was the dun of a snowless winter.
Except for the cadmium violence of the tomato clutched by his left hand - it was a tomato he had stolen. Having fled only as far as just past the exit, his fugitive arm stretched up over his head in the same place it must have landed when he fell. Had he been standing, it would have seemed to bear a torch. As it was, the fruit was bitten and spilling its guts.
What a scene under the great red letters of the "Safeway" sign. The irony of it didn't strike me until now, but then, I didn't look for the odd coincidences in names when I was a child.
What held most tightly in my memory was a grave image, and the colors, saturated by the enchanted light of dusk approaching. What I felt was the aching dread of helplessness, and a desperate fear for the old man and the fate of my own perpetually drunken father.