I almost didn't recognize him when he called my name. I'll never know how he recognized me. I only remember him from the pictures in that album Mom keeps on the bottom shelf of the coffee table in the living room. It must have been twenty-five years since I have last seen him.
His hair was shorter in those pictures, a military cut, and his clothes looked freshly ironed. His hazel eyes twinkled as if they knew something wonderful that the rest of us didn't. If they did, he left without ever telling us what it was.
"Hey, Charlie. Do you have a few bucks to spare an old man?"
He is sitting in front of me, against the wall of the Suntrust bank in downtown Brenville. His dirty blond hair has grown out over his face like the lawn of the abandoned house a block from Mom's, the grass hiding the statue of the gnomes the previous owners left behind. His eyes don't have the twinkle anymore, and he hasn't shaved in a while, let alone bathed. I have to take a step back because of the stench of body odor and urine hovering over him. His clothes are rags: torn khakis, tattered blue checkered button-up, a dingy pair old tennis shoes, a green toboggan covering his ears, a ripped-up coat that looks like he stole it from a dumpster.
He doesn't know how hard I worked to make the honor roll every school year, all the late nights struggling with multiplication tables, book reports, and science projects. He wasn't there when I graduated from high school. I managed to earn a 3.51 GPA despite working the late shift at Burger Shack. He couldn't appreciate how many scholarship essays I had to write so I could pay for college. I went on to law school and graduated in the top 50 of my class. I'm an attorney now in a well-respected law firm, but he doesn't know that. He doesn't know anything about me, but he knows to match my name with my face.
I don't know how I feel about this man. I'm not sure if I even want to look at him. And I don't know if I will regret saying what I'm about to say the moment it comes out of my mouth, but I will say it anyway.
"Do you need a place to stay, Dad?"