The worst part is his nose. What are those bumpy things, are they warts? Are they some sort of skin disorder that I don’t know the name of? Why do they make his nose so red and consistently shiny? And most importantly, why doesn’t he have them removed?
I love him so much. He’s so smart; he’s funny; he’s kind. He is ranked among the top of my small list of dearest friends. He reminds me of feelings I had when I was a kid. When the world was still new and everything was waiting to be discovered and everything was possible.
But his eyes are just about the only thing on his face that I can bear to look at. Aside from the nose situation, it seems like nobody ever really taught him how to shave. Somehow he’s always managed to cut himself and there’s a little dried blood somewhere, or an ingrown hair. And he always misses a tiny patch under his chin. And that’s just his face. His shirts are almost always too small and there’s always some of that generous, hairy gut sticking out. His fingers are kind of hairy, too.
One of our favorite things to do together is just drive. There’s not much exploring to do around here—basically, if you drive more than half an hour in any direction you just end up in the country, or a small country town, which are basically all the same: on the outskirts of town there’s a Walmart, a couple fast-food restaurants and a grocery store. One or two might even have a mom and pop motel or even a Super 8. Then you follow the highway ‘til it tapers off and turns into a single-road that takes you on a somewhat skewed route ‘downtown’–one that is either dying, or struggling with a ‘revival’: local crafty shops, the inevitable coffee shop, and in the more happening towns, maybe even a tavern. I can’t tell you how many of these towns we’ve passed through. How many dusty ‘antique’ shop slash consignment shops slash thrift stores benefiting the local PTA or Fireman’s Fund we’ve been in. To a fault, Todd is kind and inquisitive to the shop owners. He’ll always comment on the weather, ask them how their day is going. He’ll find some item, some small pin or teacup or beaten up magazine from the 1940’s to ask them about, and he’ll listen attentively as they tell the story of how it was given to them by the daughter of the old lady who lived in the house at the end of Green Street, and before you know it we’ll have found out the history of the town’s last confederate widow, and we’ll discover that we’re holding the pin that her son gave his fiancée before setting off to fight in The Great War, and Todd will have gotten directions to the one site of any interest within a fifty mile radius.
Not once has he ever bought anything at any of these stores, mind you. But the owners don’t care. They’ve been made to feel special and they’re reminded of a story that they forgot that they knew about and they had the chance to tell it to a stranger. I could just picture them going home that night and saying to their husband or wife over supper, “Do you remember that old Mr. Sticks and his Cherokee arrowhead collection?” and I could see them putting down their forks and nodding ‘oh, why, yes, yes I do. Didn’t he get them from some Indian chief himself, isn’t that how it went?’ and together they chew on their ham and think about times gone by, when the town was more than just a memory.