Dream of: 26 December 1995 “The Saddest Words”

I was walking east on Gallia Street, one of the main east/west streets in Portsmouth. I was about two blocks east of Portsmouth High School, and about a block east of the Portsmouth public library, near the newsstand called Richard's News. Noticing some chairs in front of the newsstand, I decided to sit down and take a rest. As soon as I had seated myself, I realized three or four other fellows were also sitting in the remaining chairs, one on my right and the rest on my left. All the fellows (probably in their early 30s) dressed quite casually, and had beards and longish hair. They all looked somewhat familiar to me, yet I couldn't place any of them. Finally I turned to the fellow on my right and asked him his name. When he told me his name and I didn't recognize it, I realized I must not have known him after all.

I didn't say anything else, and I began to feel somewhat uncomfortable sitting there. My discomfort was augmented by the fact that I was carrying a copy of the Book of Mormon in my right hand, and I thought if the others saw the book, they would think me peculiar. The book had a black cover and was the size of a paperback book, except it was unusually thick, about seven centimeters.

Not wanting to offend anyone, but realizing I had nothing else to say, I stood, quietly said, "Good-bye" loud enough so only the two fellows immediately next to me might hear it, and turned to leave. I headed on down the street in an easterly direction. I thought one of the fellows might offer me a ride when they noticed I was walking, but I knew I would turn it down: I didn't want to be around them any longer.

Buttoning up my black jacket, I quickly picked up my pace, and soon began slowly running. I knew I was accustomed to quickly covering what others would consider great distances by running. It was an ability I had long cultivated, and now I no longer minded running. I was at first somewhat incommoded because I was barefoot, but I quickly perceived my feet were callused enough to easily withstand the cement beneath them. I hoped the fellows in the chairs hadn't noticed I was barefoot and also think that was peculiar of me. But I was soon out of their sight, so it didn't really matter.

Now I was somewhat concerned about something different: the book I was holding. If anyone would see it they would probably think it was a Bible. I didn't particularly want anyone to see me with a Bible and think I was interested in such a book. The Bible seemed to me like a particularly square thing to be reading. But then some other thoughts whiffled through my mind. I had been young when I used to live in Portsmouth. If I had seen someone walking down the street with a Bible when I used to live in Portsmouth, at that time I would have probably thought the person was someone to be admired, rather than someone to be disdained. Probably most of the people living in Portsmouth were of about the same mentality as I had been when I had lived there. So I decided not to let my carrying the black book bother me. Who knew, it might even keep people from hassling me.

I ran until I reached Offnere Street, where I turned north. About two blocks up Offnere Street I came to the underpass which goes under the train tracks. I could either go across the top and walk right over the train tracks, or I could walk on the sidewalk under the train tracks.

However as I reached the underpass, I saw quite a few people standing around. Also about a block away down a side street I could see the flashing lights of a police car, which appeared to be pulled up in front of store or carry- out. Many of the people standing on the street were black, and I realized this was the bad part of town. I felt vulnerable, and now I was glad I had the black book with me, thinking it might help to ward off anyone inclined to harm me.

It appeared that a number of the people standing there were in line to go into a store. I could see the store window and could even see my reflection in it. It looked as if I had a burr haircut and also as if my hair had a reddish tint.

I quickly surmised the people in line were all going into the store to buy some alcohol. All of them already appeared soused – all of them except for one black woman. She was probably about 30 years old and seemed out of place among the others. I thought she might be there on some kind of social work to try to help the reprobates who were dallying there. I felt her look at me, and I wondered if she might be interested in me. Surely she could see, especially with the black book in my hand, that I wasn't like the others.

One fellow who seemed particularly drunk walked by and said, "Of all the words of mice and men the saddest are these, I might have been drunk."

I chuckled finding his play on words amusing, how he had changed the quote from "it might have been" to "I might have been drunk." Yet at the same time, it was somewhat sad. It was sad to see these people in Portsmouth. I had escaped from this long ago, but these dregs were trapped here. Only people who couldn't make it in the world would have stayed in Portsmouth.

I still had to decide whether to go over or under the underpass. It looked dangerous underneath. It was rather dark there and I could see several figures lurking in the shadows. It looked as if a couple people there might even be engaged in an altercation. The top of the overpass didn't look much better, but at least it was better lit. Actually I didn't like either of the alternatives.

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