The artist wears Leather Shoes

I remember a day years ago as a teenager, a coldish, wetish day, overcast. I am standing in front of a two-story building in Downtown Idaho Falls. The façade of the building is a brick pediment that slopes sharply to a capstone. From the sidewalk, looking up, I see  a middle aged man standing as if triumphant atop said capstone, arms raised high above his head, his coat flapping in the wind. I realize that man is the man I’ve come to see. In front of me, a single door, carrying the number 9, opens onto a narrow stair. On the street, the building is a drug store. They have a counter with the four twirling stools with round red vinyl seats, but they don’t serve food or drinks anymore. Just a remnant of what was. It’s important that it’s a drug store, and we’ll get to that in a bit. The stairwell is dark and musty and dank. Smells a bit of stale cigarettes, beer and pot. There is another door at the top of the stairs, and I emerge onto a flat gravel roof.  The second floor is an apartment. The gravel roof serves as patio. There are folding chairs strewn about, and puddles.

The middle aged man scrambles off the capstone, nimbly sliding down the icy pediment as though he were strolling across a lawn, and hops down onto the roof. Meanwhile, I’m standing there in threadbare jeans, and an open, wool jacket; it’s a little too big and with only one button, which I haven’t fastened. I suddenly notice I’m standing there in a puddle, in my leather shoes. Leather shoes! I never had the right shoes.

While I realize that my feet are wet, and are likely to stay that way, the man steps up.  Both younger and older than his 46 years, he is athletic, obviously has been athletic, but he’s thinner than his build would suggest, and his clothes seem a little oversized. He’s wearing a once bright though now faded red and pink shirt, collar turned up, and what were once slacks, and a pair of black leather shoes seriously in need of a polish. He stepped around all the puddles. His feet remained dry.

A subtle but noticeable depression in his scalp just at the hairline above his right eye is an artifact of one of the bigger potholes he’s pounded through. His full head of short cropped bristling graying hair takes a careful detour around that. Eight fingers remain, the index and middle fingers of his left hand having been removed at the middle knuckle and forgotten somewhere after another bump in the road. The misshapen right forearm, an intriguing sort of lightning bolt, is evidence of too many breaks and too many casts and too little healing. The nose bends left, and right, and ends with a small bump just beyond a nearly invisible scar. Nice work, that. A very skilled surgeon, and very high price. Why this expertly fixed nose, and a hole in his head? Every scar, every mark punctuates a life used up in the living. He remains handsome, he could be handsome, despite the history etched across his body and countenance in these visible and so many less obvious ways. His descent from the capstone proves him fit quick and limber. This despite years of addictions and abuse.  High mileage on rough roads at full speed.He wears a few days of beard trimmed into points at the corners, and again around his chin and cheeks. His big deep brown eyes, almost black eyes, pupils lost, perpetually bloodshot, somehow twinkle under long lashed lids held together at the corners by deep wrinkles worn in patterns of familiar laughter and the droll subjacent sarcasm of an incurable smartass. 

Then he speaks.

“That’s it, man. D’ya wanna come in?”