Roger and Me
A few months after my father died I met Roger on one of those many park benches along the South Florida coastline where anyone can sit at any time and watch the ocean. At the time, I didn’t even think that he was homeless. I thought he was just some older person sitting on the beach after too much drinking.
Then, after a few minutes of chatting about nonsense, he flat out told me: “I’m homeless by the way.”
Roger wasn’t a drunk. He was someone who claimed to have a PhD in philosophy and would try to explain to me the finer points of Kant. After our first meeting, when he explained to me the basic outline of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, there was a long time when I didn’t see him, several months.
Then suddenly I was seeing him everyday. He seemed to just appear at different parts of the beach whenever I happened to be there like some strange apparition. He would talk at length about John Rawls or Aristotle, but occasionally he would talk about these philosophers that I had never heard of, and he would talk about it in a way that made me think that these philosophers hadn’t been born yet.
Perhaps they hadn’t.
Then one day I saw Roger sitting on the same park bench I met him some many months ago. We talked longer than we usually did that day and it made me wonder if perhaps there was a reason for us meeting. He didn’t mention anything about philosophy but instead talked generally about the wonder of life.
“I’m going somewhere soon,” he said.
“Where are you going?”
He didn’t answer. He just stared out into space.
Then he said, “You know, you seem like a good kid. The kind of kid a father could be proud of.”
I looked closely at him and wondered if perhaps he wasn’t my dad in some alternative universe. Perhaps when my father’s boat had sunk he had been sucked into some kind of black hole that had sent him into the future where had been forced to memorize Kant, Hume, Aristotle, and other yet-to-be born philosophers.
When Roger looked at me the last time, though, I had another feeling. I had the feeling that he really was nothing more than what he was: an old man, someone who had a PhD in philosophy or thought he did, couldn’t remember my name, and wandered from place to place without purpose.
He said to me, “Take care of yourself, kiddo.” It was something my father would never have said.
He started walking.
Before I knew it, he was gone.