Who will I be today?
I ask Saul. I used to call him Zombie Man, but I learned his real name down the road. He’s been a regular at the fast food joint I work at for years. He is tall, skinny, with a body that seems lopsided — as if they, you know, kind of rushed assembly at the people factory. And he moves slowly. He walks as if he is carefully calculating every move he makes, as if each small movement is made with concentrated, conscious effort, though the crooked-looking man still manages to walk a crooked path despite it all.
Saul is interesting, to say the least. Over the years, he came to sport a cowboy hat. In the early days he would come in late nights, get his senior coffee and take a seat by the front door. I was usually cleaning the dining room by that time. He would stare down, face lost in the shadows of his hat, never saying a word. You would always hear him wrestling in his pockets, though, dropping his change on the floor. You would hear it clink and roll across the floor tiles, one after another. He would look but never find them.
For awhile he would fall asleep at his table, senior coffee resting in a light brown puddle before him, and start rubbing his crotch beneath the table with one of his skeletal hands. It is perhaps as fast as I have seen him move. His head would fall back and he would make happy zombie noises. I had to wake him up more than once so he would snap out if it.
Despite giving off the impression that his mind has gone south, he comes across as surprisingly lucid when you talk with him — as eventually I did out of necessity. I introduced myself, he introduced himself, we shook hands, and I sanitized promptly thereafter.
He would come in, go to the bathroom and stay in that stall sometimes for hours. His caretaker would often come looking for him, and I would have to go get him. I’d knock. Tell him someone was waiting for him.
“Oh. Okay. Thank you, Steve.”
Steve? So it was a Steve day.
He also would tend to forget to lock the stall door. If you were in there cleaning, as was often the case with me, you might be lucky. You would hear him talking to himself. You would hear the clink and rolling of change across the floor tile.
You were not always lucky, however.
I always knock and ask if anyone is there before walking into the stall. In most cases, this prevents mishaps. Not with Saul. He never answers. Not even when you open the door and find his bony knees sticking up, tightie whites and blue jeans collected at his ankles. His face remains hidden beneath the brim of his hat.
“Saul. Hey Saul. You’ve got to lock the door, man.”
Those were the Mike days.
His name, as I said, is Saul. Its always Saul. My name is different, however. It all depends on the day, evidently.
He comes in the door and I extend a wave in greeting.
“Hey Larry,” he says to me.
Ah. So today is a Larry day.