An Encounter

Ethan Goffman
I was hobbling a bit as I walked down the street; I’d injured my leg but I couldn’t remember how. Because I’d left my phone at home, I had no way of contacting anyone and was a little lost among the snaking streets of my neighborhood—if I was still in my neighborhood. Despite it all, I was enjoying the walk, the unfamiliar houses, the fresh air (though it was a bit cold, and the wind was acting up), that feeling of exploration, tinged with danger, I had experienced as a kid but more rarely as an adult.
Down the curving street, whom should I see walking toward me but a black man wearing rags drooped upon his gangly frame, hobbling toward me on an injured leg. As he approached, I averted my gaze.
 “Hey, man, can you help me,” he said.
“I don’t have any cash.”
“That’s not it at all. I’m lost and I wonder if you can help me find my way home.”
“Where are you going”?
He looked up, not quite at the scraggly sky. The blank expression on his face, the reflection in his clunky glasses, mirrored the confused clouds. “I don’t know,” he said. 
“Well, if you don’t know, how can I help you”?
“Just point me somewhere that seems right.”
“If you choose that street,” I said, gesturing past a cheery yellow house to an obscure side street, while the blue sky shimmered above, “I bet you’ll find your destination.”
“Thanks man,” he said. “Have a blessed day.” And he hobbled off.
I hoped I had helped him, since I didn’t even know where I was or where I was going. I didn’t even know if I was white or black like him, or Asian, or Hispanic, or some other race entirely, perhaps even a different species. Glancing down at my arms I saw that I was, indeed, a black man. But really, that told me nothing. I was still lost in any case.
***

Bio: Ethan Goffman is the author of the short story collection Realities and Alternatives (Cyberwit, 2023), the poetry collections I Garden Weeds (Cyberwit, 2021) and Words for Things Left Unsaid (Kelsay Books, 2020) and the flash fiction collection Dreamscapes (UnCollected Press, 2021). Ethan is co-founder of It Takes a Community, which brings poetry to Montgomery College students and nearby residents, and is founder and producer of the Poetry & Planet podcast on EarthTalk.org. Ethan also writes nonfiction on transportation alternatives for Greater Greater Washington and other publications.

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