An old man asked me for a cigarette today. That was the highlight of my day, so let's start there.
He had wrinkled brown skin and a scraggly, pointed gray beard. He wore a rumpled hat that was probably brown, but everything about him seemed to have the same color and texture. He was pushing an improbable green baby stroller, with no baby. I was walking toward the post office on Sebastopol Road, and he stopped me.
Despite a couple of missing teeth, he had a sunny smile. Maybe it was because of the light that burned from behind his eyes. He said something incomprehensible and called me "young man." I smiled back, and that's when he asked if I had a cigarette I could spare. Not if I had a cigarette, or if he could have a cigarette, but if I had an extra one.
I had to shake my head and apologize for not being able to help him out. His smile got even brighter and he patted me on the shoulder. He touched the Cabo Wabo logo on my T-shirt and said, "I like your shirt." I thanked him, and we both moved on in our opposite directions.
This was an unusual encounter, based on recent experience. Either everyone is in a bad mood lately, or (more likely) it's me. It could be the start of a trend in a better direction, though. When I left the old man and walked on down the sidewalk, there was a woman coming toward me from the middle of the next block. I can't be completely sure, but I believe that when we passed each other she almost made eye contact with me.