A beautiful, warm, spring day today, so I made my not infrequent lunchtime trip down to the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial park to walk and take the air.
There was a quite a crowd today, gazing in amazement at the Arch towering above them. I sat right underneath it and soaked up the sun. It was refreshing and reinvigorating.
As I sat, mothers and babies, tourists with cameras, joggers and Park Officials came and went, giving the scene a lively sense of happy activity.
I walked down to the riverside. The tour boats were in operation, and doing good business for a day this early in the season.
The river had dropped considerably; my friends Lewis and Clark were now well out of the water.
It was good to be able to read the plaque on their pedestal for a change – that had been underwater for at least two months.
I strolled on down the gently sloping cobbles on my return from the far south end of the park. There was a lot of silt deposited on the bank; probably not the healthiest mud either in terms of biological or chemical constitution. The next big rainstorm will wash it away.
While I was looking at this, and had wandered about half down the length of the river, I glanced up at the Arch. There it was in all its glory, but close to where the cobbles end and the road begins, I saw a black shape on the ground.
What was it?
I walked closer in. It was the body of a man, his head covered with a black jacket, lying there in the sun. Beside him were the plastic bags that are the sad marker of so many homeless people.
I looked at him for a long time. Above me, where I had been sitting under the Arch, there were many people lying similarly prone in the sun. Sleeping. I gave them no second thought.
Yet here was this man, doing just the same? I felt uneasy – I wondered if I should disturb him. Was he really just sleeping? I couldn't tell, but surely here in this relatively well-traveled and open spot, what else would he be doing?
In the end, I just let him be, figuring that he was simply catching up from a sleepless night. Still, he was a poignant reminder that the happy scene I saw above was only one side of life in the city.
This disturbed me and I moved on.
What also disturbed me was his similarity to the images I have seen of dead bodies, murdered or otherwise, in countless dramas. The dead driftwood around him only added to the sinister effect.
As I said, I let this be, but I'm still wondering about him now.