I was at a hospital complex near where I live this afternoon. This is a relatively new campus; the entire thing is designed. The buildings are situated on a curve, somehow sweeping while being large, undeniably hospitally rectangles. The parking lot is entirely on purpose; it’s part of the taste of the overall aesthetic – wide corridors, leafy flora, a hushed, contained sense. In fact, other than it is filled with cars and outside, it could easily be part of the interior of the hospital, which likewise has wide hallways, leafy potted plants, and a quitely purposeful air.
As I was walking outside, I saw stuck in the middle of this manicured space, out of place, a man. He reminded me suddenly and forcefully of a younger (certainly less deceased) Paul Newman. Cool Hand Luke Paul Newman.
In that parking lot of cars neatly filed like a terribly fancy private library, Paul stood out. His car wasn’t a muted tone — a grey, white, black, not even a sleek silver. Oh no, not Paul’s car. It wasn’t a newer model, something that apologizes with every mile for it’s very existence. Paul doesn’t care for those cars, you can tell by looking at him. His car was a bright orange, a firey 1970s assertion of motor style. Indeed, it wasn’t a car as much as a camper. And Paul was in the mood for some camping, for he was parked — literally and figuratively — on a chair in front of the wide open side doors of his van. His sunglasses flashed as he rocked gently back and forward. The sun glazed him like a basted goose, the redder tones of the paint reflecting back onto his bare skin. Paul sat, solid, unmoveable, shirtless, confident in his utter rightness to be there, bare but for shorts, smoking a cigarette, outside a skin cancer center.
I couldn’t drag my eyes away; Paul, and all the decisions that lead to Paul sitting like this, here, was frankly magnetic. What drives a late 40s man to come to a hospital complex, take off his shirt, socks, shoes (or possibly, arrive without those things), and sit outside in a rocking chair? The chair makes me think he routinely sets up kip in various places and watches the world pass. But this particular parking lot isn’t something you stumble into. Further, who tempts fate by deeping his already remarkable tan outside a skin cancer center? And the smoking. Paul. It’s not 1967 anymore. So taken was I with what lead Paul there, with the other decisions he must make on a regular basis, I almost backed over him. For that, I apologize, Paul Newman. Glad to see you out and about.
This post is in response to The Daily Post one-word prompt: Magnet