Sometimes he wonders if the man was an apparition. A ghost of sorts. A ghost that wandered in his past. A ghost that walked freely. One that comes to him even all these years later. But that couldn’t be, he tells himself. The man was known by others, wasn’t he? He waved at them as they passed by in their cars. They waved back. He was sure of it. Didn’t he notice, just once, a driver or passenger in one of those cars return his gesture? He was sure of it, wasn’t he? It’s been so long ago.
The man’s beard, unkempt on his face, was more salt than pepper as the years progressed. Apparitions don’t age, he reminded himself. Wires poked out from the tops of his high cheekbones. And his breath like that of someone freshly awakened in the morning. Thick like dough. It was somehow more bearable coming from him. The smell. From another, he would have turned his head in a considerate manner so as not to offend.
“If I were to describe him to others. Those here. Not those from there,” he said, “they would think him a fallacy. ‘Surely people don’t live like that,’ they would say.”
“But they do,” he would tell them. “Just like a hermit in the woods. Just like the hermit this man exists. He’s like an apparition, but he’s not. He exists.”
And he would describe the man’s actions. How it seemed as if, just before bad things happened, the man knew to leave; and would, in turn, instruct him to go. Though, it must be said of the man’s premonitions, he wasn’t even aware himself. He knew, but didn’t. Like looking at one’s reflection in a murky pool of water. You could make out the shape of it, but little more.
“Are you sure?” they would ask.
“Yes,” he would say.
“He had a name. Just like you.” And, he would tell them it. “And he had a last name, too. And a family. But I knew him as Straw. I called him Strawman. Like that of a scarecrow.”