Every day, as I drive home from work, I pass by the same roadside flower salesman.
Years ago, it was a different man, and, for a long time, the reliable sight would serve me as a comforting sign that I was nearly home. Then, one day, that guy was gone, and there was a different Mexican in his place. To another driver, that may have been a minor detail, but, for me, it was a jarring alteration to my daily routine.
I don't know why I was so perturbed to find a different man working that site. This obviously wasn't an independent operation run by one individual. No doubt, there was a bigger office behind it, with multiple locations and swappable salesmen.
I suppose it was not the familiar image of the man himself that I relied upon, but a romanticized projection of a proletarian persevering in life despite his lowly station. But, as I speculated on what had become of the bygone salesman, I thought it doubtful that the story could be a happy one. It did not strike me as the sort of gig to offer much possibility for advancement. What opportunities could the world offer a forty-year-old who had had to settle for this job in the first place?
Some soul-searching later, I had to face the likelier scenario that he had died or otherwise become unable to fulfill his duties, which were assuredly exhausting to both body and spirit. The sight of a man selling flowers by the road was no longer a comfort. Why didn't he at least have a chair to sit in?
This evening, as I approached that spot along my commute home, I noticed that the current flower seller seemed to be in unusually fine spirits. As I drew closer, I saw that there was indeed something off.
Dude was smoking. He had the lit cig in his mouth as he waved the bouquet in his hand.
Gone are home and comfort. These are the details that give life its bitter taste.