Donald has a mental illness, though I can’t tell you specifically which one. In much the same way the church bells of San Maurizio mark the passage of our days there, Donald’s presence on his bench tells us that things are in order in this small corner of the world.
He arrives from his home sometime in the middle part of the morning and sits for his morning shift. Late in the morning he walks along the busy four-lane highway to the supermarket about two miles distant and buys some food which he carries back in a plastic sack to his bench for his daily picnic. Sometime in the mid-afternoon Donald takes himself home. When he’s not actually present on his bench during the day, Donald leaves his warm jacket, a bag and a bottle of soda to mark his territory.
He’s a friendly, if remote, man; I put him somewhere in his mid-50’s or early 6o’s, though it’s quite impossible to know for sure. Passers-by almost always offer Donald a pleasant greeting (augmented sometimes with a treat if they know him), and if he’s not completely engaged in an interior dialogue he returns the greeting cordially, while at the same time not inviting further chat. Donald has a deep and musical voice; to receive a greeting from him is to hear a hymn.
So many elements contribute to the emotional content of our neighborhoods and give us the sense of ‘home.’ Donald makes such a contribution for us. When he was absent for a few days last week we worried – influenza? did he move away? He returned this week and suddenly all was right with the world. Thank you, Donald.