I was sitting at the table nearest the window so I could be easily distracted from my writing by the passersby on the sidewalk. A man in a dark blue raincoat walked in the door. The hood was up over his head. It was a sunny day.
He walked over to the counter and Andrea moved over from reading the paper to help him. He did not speak. I think she made him a lattÃ©. He put a dollar next to the register, took his drink and left. Without even a raised eyebrow Andrea went back to reading the paper. I went over to the counter and sat on the stool across the bar from Andrea.
“What’s up with that?” I asked. She looked a little confused so I indicated the direction of the door. She shrugged and said, “Sleepwalking Man. I think he lives somewhere in the area.”
“How does he get a lattÃ© for only a buck?”
Again a shrug. “Far as I know he pays a buck for everything he gets. He doesn’t seem to take advantage of it, at least not here. He’s only come in four or five times. At least when I’ve been here.”
“How did you know what he wanted? Does he ever talk?”
“Never said a word. First time I saw him in here, he came in and just stood there. I asked him a couple of times what he wanted and got no response. I poured him a cup to go. He set a dollar on the counter, took his drink and left.”
“But now he gets a lattÃ©?” I thought it would be nice to pay just a dollar for everything.
“I make him what I feel like making.” She turned the page to the comics and read while she spoke. “I talked to one of the flower guys next door, and he said that he sold Sleepwalking Man a bouquet of roses for a buck. I guess he buys once a month or something.”
I wondered what made this guy so special that he could get away with living like this. Did he pay a dollar for rent, groceries, and movies? I asked, “Why doesn’t anyone call him on it?”
Another shrug, her answer for most everything I’d noticed. “I’m sure people have. But he is a “local character” so you can either choose to deal with him or choose not to. Michael said it was okay to serve him. Warren says no, but I never listen to him anyway.”
I tried not to listen to Warren too. He was the other owner of the Place. A nervous fellow and it rubs off on everyone. Andrea engrossed herself in the comics. She was never one for subtlety when she decides she’s done talking. I decided to grab my things and went to find Sleepwalking Man.
The sidewalks were crowded with people making their way to the area’s many restaurants. It was a sunny day. I figured it would be relatively easy to find a man wearing a dark-blue raincoat. I made my way to the corner of 21st and Glisan. I chose to go north on 21st, looking into each boutique and eatery as I passed. Nothing. Granted I only walked up to Monroe, but there really wasn’t much past the hospital. At least nothing I was interested in seeing even if Sleepwalking Man was somewhere ahead. I walked back down 21st on the other side of the street. I passed by Cinema 21 and thought about taking in a movie. It was an art-flick house. No blockbuster movies ever played there.
Back to Glisan. I stood in front of the Blue Moon and got hungry looking at the menu tacked to the door. The Blue moon was a good place for burgers and fries, but on the expensive side. Besides, I would be forced to have a beer, and that would drive up the price. Mr. Moto was across the street. Cheap, fast, and good-enough-for-the-likes-of-me food.
I jaywalked across the street, narrowly escaping death by Toyota. The bells jingled when I opened the door and Japanese fast food aromas welcomed me. Sleepwalking Man was getting a to go box for a dollar.
He walked right by me and out the door. Hunger drives many of my decisions, and after getting a chicken teriyaki to go, I was back on the street. It was still lunchtime, but most of the people had found a place to hide from their jobs for an hour. To my left, nothing. To my right, nothing. I thought, if I were a sleepwalker where would I eat my spicy beef, vegetable tempura, or shrimp curry?
I decided to head up to the rose gardens. It was quite a walk, and it was a sunny day, but I figured I’d eat my Japanese food amidst the noon-hour bus load of Japanese tourists that were bound to be up there. Besides, for some reason this stuff tastes better cold.
On Flanders I turned right and walked west. I found myself following a familiar coat. I walked behind him about 20 feet. Up Flanders, down 23rd to that wonky intersection at Burnside and then another right. It looked as though he was heading toward the rose gardens, too.
We walked up the long hill in tandum. It got boring watching him walk in front of me. I stopped a couple of times to rest, but I never let him get more than ablock ahead of me.
At the top of the hill Sleepwalking Man stopped and sat on the stairs that marked the entrance to the gardens. He was breathing heavily. I walked past him and sat at the edge of the big fountain that was only a few feet away.
While catching my breath I thought about how best to approach him. “Got a light?” “Excuse me, meester.” “Got a present for ye, luv.” None of them seemed right, so I tried what I was thinking, “Long climb, eh?”
Not surprisingly he didn’t respond. We sat there in silence. A few people wandered by, going both up and down the hill. Tourists for the most part. Some business-types on their lunch break. I realized I was spacing out in the hot sun.
I looked over and realised Sleepwalking Man was gone. I was not sure where he went or how long he had been gone. Turns out I did not need to worry as I caught up with him on the way back down the hill. I paced him for a bit, eventually ending up in the Fred Meyer parking lot along Burnside. I must have gotten a little too close, or been following him too long because all of a sudden he stopped, turned around and looked straight at me. He smiled.
He continued to smile and I could find nothing to say. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a roll of one dollar bills. He let the roll flip out and then pushed a single away from the wad with his thumb, very slowly. With his left hand he lifted the single away from the others and held it out to me. I took it, not sure what he meant by the gesture. And as I took it all he said was, “Thanks. Looks like rain.”
He made sure his hood was pulled well over his head and turned away from me. And with that, just that, he walked away. No questions answered and I’m up a buck.
Lucky me, right?