On taking leave of the one armed sweeper

I moved into this flat almost exactly 3 years ago. In that time I have walked to and from my workshop/the train station something like a thousand times.

A one-armed man lives on route and seems to spend a large portion of his life outside sweeping. It doesn’t seem to matter much what he sweeps; snow, dust, leaves, cigarette stubs, he’s just always out there on the pavement. Unless that is, he’s kneeling in the garden planting rows of identical, perfect plants. Pansies in winter, primroses in summer. They’re the most evenly positioned plants I’ve ever seen, and the most regularly watered. I’m sure they bloom longer than anyone else’s too, though, so it must be working.

I don’t know when we started nodding as we passed, or greeting each other, but it was probably just after I moved in.

Anyway. I haven’t seen him in ages, being as how I’ve been in Berlin so often and working so much overtime. This morning he gave me the widest grin and said, “Good morning!! Where are you? So long no seeing!!” in his broken German. I explained that I’d been away and that I was moving soon. We shook hands and he wished me all the best.

As I walked the rest of the way to work, I thought about how I knew practically nothing about him, and yet he’d cheered me up on so many occasions, just by existing. There’s something ridiculous about feeling sorry for yourself when you see a smiling one-armed man clear a path through the snow more quickly than you can walk along it…

I hope he carries on with the sweeping and planting for a long time.

I’ll miss him.

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