The Honey Peddler
Sometimes life is far more generous than we could hope for-- sometimes it knocks at our door, at other times it just walks right in and manifests itself. (This story first appeared in Works and Conversations). --rh.
My apartment is small but configured in such a way that I have all the space I need in the world. Just off the entry to the right is the bathroom. Then there is a longish hallway where most of my remaining books crawl two rows of jerry-rigged shelving. A few sentimental posters and paintings hang from the walls. The hall opens into the salon; there is a street-found couch, a coffee table and a TV, a futon for guests should I ever host any, and more artwork on the walls and above the fireplace mantle.
I have a mat and cushion there where I sometimes in the mornings sit. Then there’s the kitchen/ laboratory/study, where I am now tapping the keyboard of a little MacBook given to me by a friend. Nearby is a pile of books, an empty can of Rosarita frijoles and some untidy saucers turned ashtrays with butts spilling. Then there's the radio room, actually a gutted pantry, stacked with communications gear and another futon where I sleep. And then there is the blessed porch with its little rickety table and a view of my neighbors' back yard and a special tree; the neighbors are unaware that the tree actually belongs to me, that "Tree" and I are very good friends, that I know its name and we speak our own language together.
So I am sitting at the kitchen table/desk savoring some old poems of Hart Crane and Dylan Thomas when I vaguely note a flash of light in the distance. Then the front door slams by the wind, and then I hear someone peeing in my toilet! A moment later I see a human form shuffling toward me. He is seventy-something, Hispanic. He stands in my kitchen and smiles.
The singularity of the event is so bizarre that I have no sense of outrage, violation or fear."I have honey," he says. "Lots of hives of good, sweet bees. Look!" He pulls from his jacket pint after pint of rich honey in comb. He moves the empty can of Rosarita frijoles aside, moves my ashtrays and displays a row of pints before me.
I rise from my chair. "Only twelve dollars each," he says. "But señor, I have no money." "OK, only eight dollars each." I tell him again, "I have no money! He looks sad. "No money? Then I give you!" I cannot take his honey, and something akin to a rupture in the San Andreas Fault is now taking place in my psyche.
A few weeks before a friend had slipped me some get-by money; I paid some bills, bought a couple of bottles of wine and a couple of cigars, but now I’d spent the money. And now two very different needs were standing before me and I could not attend to either. The mind understood, but the heart was distraught.
I helped him put his honey back into the little cotton bag he carried, and into his jacket. I walked him to the door. He stopped at the bathroom. "I am an old man... one more pee, okay?" I stood and waited for him to finish. I opened the front door for him.
He smiled and said, "Thank you for coming to my house."