I saw Jesus at the bus stop again today. We met in rehab about ten years ago. We hit it off and kept in touch for a few months when we got out. Then I met a girl and found work across town. He just dropped away. We had plans to rent a house together once. When you have to make a new life you stick together. You realise how alone you are. He wanted a place with a work shed, somewhere he could work timber, maybe up in the hills away from the noise, and old friends and old ways we needed to let go. I agreed, we both liked restoring old wooden furniture and making things. I found him one day in the workshop back at the Centre, we talked for hours about old timber and projects we’d done and ones we wanted to do. Worn out broken men dreaming and healing. He crossed my mind many times but I didn’t know how to reach him. He never owned a phone. We’d made a connection. I knew he was a good man.
I’ve seen him around town now and then over the years. We never talk about the old plans or rehab now. Life moves you on. He asked how I’m getting on and always wants to know all about my boy Jack. I told him I’m not with that girl anymore and we rolled a smoke and sat talking at the bus stop for about a half hour. He explained he was doing it hard. Couldn’t get work, past his prime and nobody needed his skills these days. Back on the drink. I could smell it. I knew his health wasn’t the best. He had a smile as ever and was happy to see me but I sensed his act. I think he was carrying his life in that old rucksack. I offered my tobacco pouch and he reached up to take it reluctantly, his eyes smiled with a wink of humble gratitude. He asked all about my life now and how I was getting on. He said he knew things would be okay for me. Never said much about himself. He’d been in town getting some test results from his doc and bought a few groceries. Said he was going to watch an old western on the TV tonight and we laughed and talked about westerns, and science fiction movies, and tried to remember the names of a few old classics.
His bus arrived five minutes late. It was the one that headed an hour down along the bay to a quiet little backwater where the docks and an old shipyard and salmon cannery once did a good trade. They all closed years ago. There’s a pocket of a few hundred ramshackle tin roof asbestos workers cottages and a pub. The school closed in the eighties. He hollered out the bus door before it closed, “Tell Jack I said hello! Give him my love! You’re a good man!” and the bus pulled away in a blast of burnt diesel.
Rain fell hard on a wet black road as another bus pulled into its place and a gust blew cold grey people suddenly all around me. I doubt he saw my thumbs up and a smile in return as his bus moved off down the lane.