Sea Salt Caramel Ice Cream

Sausalito,
the Golden State.
Swarm of tourists
eating ice cream,
burgers,
speaking in
rapid-fire blanks
about their
next stop,
next meal,
next plan,
next whatever.

They spare only the
slightest of whispers
for the man balancing
on the edge
of the bay
wearing
the dirty brown vest,
the distressed jeans,
the disheveled hair
looking
scared,
scary, and
scarred.

He
turns his head,
tells anyone who comes
close enough,

“Go away.”

When they
frown and
look around
for some kind of
lifeline,
he says,

“Go away—I’ll jump.”

They
think the next phrase
won’t be a phrase,
but an action, maybe
so they
keep walking—
and don’t look back.

I want to
call his bluff.
I want to
stand next to him.
I want to
tell him it gets easier,
tell him to imagine his family’s faces,
tell him he’ll be missed,
tell him the sunrise is worth the
time spent
panning for aluminum cans
to fill his dirty old van.

I want to
tell him all that.

But I don’t.

I know
he won’t
believe any of it,
anyway.

I see the
holes in his sneakers,
the dirt on his shirt,
the manic look in his eye,
and I
don’t believe it, either.

Not really.

I try to
guess the words
his ears
hunger for,

but can’t.

I keep eating my
sea salt caramel ice cream,
keep staring at the
water below him,
staring at the
stains on his vest
staring at the
rest of the
beehive

eating their
Napa Valley Gourmet Burgers.

The clerk
at the jewelry store,
she says he’s
there all the time.
Says he
talks the talk,
but that’s all it is.

Talk.

Twenty minutes later,
we’re driving
toward the
Golden Gate Bridge.
We hear a siren
behind us
getting louder
as we watch
the waves
out past

the edge

of the bay.

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