A true story:
When I opened the door, he asked, "Do you remember me?" Well, yeah, I did, mostly because he looks like Santa Claus--same basic shape, same wide white beard. So let's call him Nick, though that's not his name.
One of my jobs brings me into contact with people who are homeless or otherwise in need. They come to the door seeking the vouchers I hand out for lodging or for food. Nick and his wife, let's call her Valerie, had visited me more than once. She was as slender as he was wide, twitchy, and unfocused. Valerie had a neurological disorder, and they would tell me the latest tale of him guarding and protecting her as she'd seizured on the sidewalk, or the desperate trip to the emergency room--because of course they had no health insurance, no regular doctor.
But this time Valerie wasn't with Nick. I invited him in and he sat down across from me and he said, "She passed." As he described the final seizures, the futile attempts at the hospital to save her, he cried and I cried too. He was looking for work again, now, but was unsure how he'd be able to drive a truck without her--in years past when he'd driven, she'd been in the cab with him, over thousands of miles. The long-haul job he'd recently tried for had fallen through, and he was almost glad, because he wasn't sure how to face the road alone. Now he was living in his pickup truck, he said, but he sure could use a hot shower and warm bed, if I could give him a lodging voucher.
But I couldn't. The rules on the vouchers had changed with the downturn in the economy, and the new rule was that a person could only receive one. Nick and Valerie had already used several. "Well, that's alright," he told me when I apologized for this unexpected change. "It's been really nice to talk to someone about her." I invited him to come back and see me again, let me know how's he's doing, and he said he would.
As he reached for the door to leave, the sleeve on Nick's arm rode up and I saw on his wrist a tattoo that hadn't been visible in his past visits. Just beyond the sleeve cuff was a Nazi swastika.
Then he was gone, and I was left on my side of the door, thunderstruck at this Santa who embodied the two sides of human nature. Because the confounding thing is that even Nazis love their wives. Human nature would be much easier to understand if its black and white did not blend to gray.
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