Tabula Rasa

December 11, 2009

The double-paned glass of the door frosts over slowly as he walks in. He exhales audibly; a grey cloud of life evaporates in front of his face. It was a café he knew well enough; the walls were covered with smudged paintings and people with smudged faces. It had been a long walk. A man in the corner assessed the newcomer’s entrance, shrugged, and went back to his game of solitaire. A pair of loud, bubbly young girls discusses their days by the windowsill. The barista, a tall and long-faced man, asks him what he wants. “Just a glass of water, thank you,” he says. He takes off his backpack and his ragged outer coat to sit down gratefully at the table nearest the door. Vein striped fingers search his pockets until they find their prize: a half-eaten golden delicious apple. He sits, his back to the wall, holding his meal like a weathered dog holds its favorite bone. A small-framed lady with a small chocolate lab in tow comes in the door, and the latter stretches the limit of its leash in order to investigate the stranger at the nearest table. “No, no, Gracie,” the woman’s voice said in a hushed tone. No one, not even the dog, gives the man more than a moment’s notice. As he carefully places his empty glass in the bus tray, the pale yellow light illuminates a tattoo on the man’s left wrist. Gothic letters spell out two words: tabula rasa. The barista nods as the man replaces his outer shell, complete with a tattered orange beanie. “Have a good night man,” calls the man behind the counter. “No promises,” was all he would get back.

Police reports said that he was found cold in the “rich” part of town. He had hidden inside the remains of a large plastic barrel, in the backyard of a house with blue trim. A neighbor had noticed an unusual lump in the blanket of snow that had fallen that evening, and after sending his son to go check it out they had called 911. Paramedics didn’t even try to revive him; the color had drained from the man’s face long before his heart had stopped his weary cadence. Three sets of blue and red lights rotate silently in the cul-de-sac, piercing the picturesque little neighborhood with a reminder of their urban presence. It takes two men to lift the body onto a stretcher, white flakes still gently adding to the man’s frosted features. One lonely arm hangs down and sways with every bump the stretcher hits, barely visible in the pale moonlight are two words: tabula rasa. Neighbors watching from across the way hold their children tighter as the medics pack up and leave, they feel sad but they cannot articulate why. A young girl stops catching snowflakes on her tongue long enough to ask her mother, “Who was that man, mommy?” Her mother just shrugs. “A very sick old man, honey. No one important,” she answers. Consoled by her mother’s words, the girl goes back to twirling around in the snowfall. She will never again think about the man she saw that night; the thought of him erased as swiftly as the tiny snowflakes hitting her mouth, instantly liquid and then, gone.



One Response to “Tabula Rasa”

  1. A lot of of guys blog about this issue but you wrote down really true words!!

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