Friday, December 22, 2006

Asparagus Fern

The old man that gardens, landscapes and mows in my neighborhood comes back soon after and gets right back to work. Though he walks with a slight stoop, shoulders and head hunched forward, he does not falter. He is the unseen, the enduring.

The roofers now living below me are quick to congregate, shout and litter everything from used Q-tips to raw meat packages - on the ground, in the rain - and are prompted to pick them up only by my screaming and photographing. The apartment manager thanks them for their efforts in rebuilding our city.

No one that I observe thanks the old man.

I watch him out my kitchen window sometimes, where I can see him tending to a house behind the one that contains my apartment. He does not falter in his work, even on the hottest August day. Gentleman to a fault, he retains his long pants and sleeves in the most sweltering Southern sun.

One such day, I fill a tall Mardi gras cup with ice-cold, filtered tap water and take it to him, telling him I appreciate his hard work and how thirsty he must be. His face lights up; he thanks me profusely. Later, I find the empty Mardi gras cup at the bottom of my stairs. Several weeks later, a few more men vacate, leaving stray, unbagged garbage all over. One blames it on "the homeless," who must have seen the clothes he threw away and ripped the bags open. There are no bags or bag remnants, however; only piles of clothes stacked haphazardly on the sidewalk, with records, food packages, styrofoam squiggles. Tired of cleaning up after everyone, including those who stay yet still treat the world as their dumpster, even after all it's been through, I pass the piles by, though their presence grinds at me - never more so than when I see the old man bending and straining to pick up the pieces of filth and discard left by men half his age and twice his physical strength; I go over and help him.

I'm told he is paid for his work - by the very same people that rent to and abide this pollution, so it can't be very much. I run into him again after some time and he beams, telling me that he has an asparagus fern he'd like to give me, how much he appreciates me helping him with the garbage, and that he didn't want to disturb me by knocking on my door unannounced, furthering his status as a rarity, given the series of neighbors who have laid claim to my porch and personal space with zero qualms.

A week later, I come home to some fuzzy new object there and inwardly groan; said neighbors once left me stuffed animals and also stole a shirt and plant pot from the space, though not in that order, so I'm wondering what the gag is now. I approach the stairs and realize: asparagus fern.

I still see him lope down the block and tear at the weeds, overturn dead earth like a Depression-era farmer tilling the soil, displaced in some cruel century. He goes largely unacknowledged.

But asparagus fern
thrives all the while.


Blogger anomaly76 said...

I too would like to thank you for noticing.

11:22 AM  

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