It is one of those days. I have come to expect them. And there's not particularly good reason, just the interior season of my heart. I have gone from summer to full winter without even benefit of a beautiful and preparatory fall.
It's not a "Yippee, I am a Catholic day!" It's a day when it's all I can do to drag my bones out of bed and force them to daily mass. It's a day when I have already forgotten the gospel by the time of the epiclesis. It's a day when vocalizing prayer is impossible and when everything echoes in emptiness. It's the kind of day that were it not for the implacable force of God--at least, I think it's God--- pulling me, I'd just toss it all over, because isn't one emptiness as good, or as bad as another?
I left the basement chapel and walked back to my hotel. The city was just waking up, the early birds walking briskly into offices and shops. The donut shops were filling up. A few people waited at a bus stop, a couple of parking lot attendants bantered back and forth. I scowled in the bright daylight; my sunglasses had gone missing somewhere in my bags and I was too tired to find them before I left.
In front of me, an older man walked the same path. He was wearing the obligatory darak suit of middle management and the hearing aid of the aging boomer. His shoulders were a bit stooped and his grey hair a thinning tonsure. His walk was resolute, but like me, he didn't seem particularly engaged in his day or his surroundings. I fixed my gaze on his mid-back. I had followed him perhaps a block, crossing an empty side street against the light,when it happened.
He paused at the edge of the curb and picked up a piece of paper lying on the sidewalk. Then he took a few more steps, and leaned over and picked up another, then another. He dropped them in the trash and proceeded on his way, stopping every few steps to pick up trash until he reached his building. Without breaking his deliberate pace, he dropped the papers in the dustbin at the door and went inside.
He was fascinating. This was in downtown Worcester, where discarded trash is everywhere, yet this man stopped on his way to pick up a few stray pieces of debrisand throw them away. Trash still clung to the edges of the sidewalk that he had walked, and there will again be paper where he stopped today but for now, five steps worth of Massachusetts sidewalk was clean.
I paused for a minute at the door of his building. I wasn't the only one who looked at his disappearing back with amusement mixed with al bit of pity. What an insignificant thing he had done! All I had to do was look around at dozens of pieces of urban debris that remianed just where they were before he walked by. What a waste of time.
I started back down the street, towards the hotel and breakfast. A piece of newspaper and an empty Cheetos bag skittered across my path. I bent down and picked them up, and a few steps later picked up a discarded cup. As I straightened up, I saw the quizzical look of a woman who was passing me by. I dropped the trash in a bin, pushed the crossing button and walked on, squinting in the sunlight.
It would seem that, sometimes, the darkness has its place.