Tabula rasa

tabula rasa (TAB-yuh-luh-RAH-suh), noun

A clean slate; lacking preconceived notions, prejudices, beliefs, and attitudes; receptive to instruction and information.

I have seen a man walking on the river road many times. Usually he is adorned with a bulky drawstring bag and an off-centered hardhat. His thick glasses make him look older than perhaps he is, though I suspect he is around seventy. His clothes and circumstance have a way of confusing his age. I have seen this man waiting for the bus where there is no bus stop and I have seen the bus, on multiple occasions, pick him up. He is always near the same mile marker.

There is a house, a gaudy over-exaggeration of misplaced style, embedded in the mountainside without any neighbors. Its driveway curves upwards in two unnecessary switch-backs, at the bottom of which, the bus stops for this particular man. I have never seen him walk up the driveway or come down from it. Perhaps because I am driving past at 55 mph, but regardless, he is there so frequently.

Tonight, as I drove by in the pouring rain, I saw flashing lights of the TART bus on the side of the road where I know there is no stop. As the bus pulled away, I watched a familiar silhouette gleaming against the rain-soaked headlights. He looked left, right and left again. In my rearview mirror, I watched him walk quickly across the road behind me and it occurred to me, perhaps he lives there.

In other circumstances, I would twinge at the idea of someone being dropped off in the middle of nowhere on a rainy January night, but after this long draught, my prejudices were swept clean. I looked at this man with a tabula rasa and thought, good for him.

Perhaps he is a man who inherited an unfortunately ugly mansion. Perhaps he chooses not to drive a car or simply prefers the bus. Perhaps his coke-bottle glasses keep him from having a license. There are a million explanations as to why he has finagled the bus-driver to drop him off where there is no designated sign, which made me smile at the kindness of the bus-driver, who is perhaps just thrilled to have someone on his route.

In reality, I do think he is a vagrant who has found a comforting habit, but I like the possibility that I am absolutely wrong.

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