I came out of the kitchen, and Frank was right there. He stopped in his tracks and just stared at me. I said, “Frank! I haven’t seen you in a long time!”
Frank lives outside and has some pretty extreme mental illness. The last time I saw him, he was dirtier than I had ever seen him. His skin was brown, not from a tan, but from dirt. His layers of clothing reeked of urine. That time, he had only come in out of the cold for just a few minutes to warm up, and then he set out again walking down the street. That’s where I usually see Frank, walking down the street. I don’t know where he comes from or where he’s going, but he’s always walking.
Today, when I greeted him, Frank just stood there. Frozen. No response. I asked him, “Can I help you with something, Frank?”
He said, “Yeah. I would like a tall iced tea.” Then he smiled, “With lots of sugar, please?”
“I think I can handle that,” I told him.
I was surprised. In the few years that I have known Frank, I have never seen him order a drink. He always just drinks the free coffee or gets a cold cup of water from the cooler. I was surprised that Frank even had money. I’ve never known him to panhandle, and the uncle who was his Social Security payee gave up helping him manage his money a long time ago.
I went to the tablet to ring up his order. “Two seventeen,” I said. Frank pulled out a small fold of bills and handed me the cash.
As I was scooping ice and pouring his drink, I mentioned to him that he looked good. Frank had some time recently taken a bath. His clothes did not reek, and his overgrown hair and beard seemed to have been brushed. Although, he still looked like the last man on earth. Long wild hair, thick scraggly beard, and tan leathery skin (now due to the sun, not just dirt).
Frank smiled. Then he asked, “Does your iced tea have healing powers?”
I said, “I don’t think I can say that it does.”
“Can it cure my multiple gun shot wounds?” he asked.
“You have multiple gun shot wounds?” I asked him, as I poured a steady stream of sugar into his cup.
“You can’t see ‘em now, but yes. I have multiple gun shot wounds.”
I stirred his tea slowly with a long spoon.
“Well, I’m glad you’re not bleeding all over my floor,” I said, as I looked him in the eye.
His eyes brightened, and slowly a grin spread across Frank’s face.
I handed him the tea and asked him to taste and see if it was sweet enough. He took a sip and then said, “It presents perfectly.” His head was bowed, but he smiled at me, looking at me through the tops of his eyes.
I put a lid on the cup. Then Frank turned and walked out the door into the hot Oklahoma sunshine, sipping his tall iced tea.
Frank’s name and face have been changed for his privacy.