Ordinary language is all right.
One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.
There's a homeless man who has taken to huddling in an armchair in the most out-of-the way corner of the corporate coffeeshop, nearly a typical patron, sitting for hours at some task, or nothing, absorbed, mostly discreetly save for the obnoxiously overloud device on which he's playing videos, and the thick odor of clothing too long unwashed. He lugs his belongings around in several cinched-up Target bags, half of which he brings inside, half of which he leaves lined along the location's exterior just by the side entrance, then popping outside—a bit too restively—to rummage around for something. His usage of the facilities feels faintly excessive, as if by even noticeably preparing to enter a bathroom, rather than going directly in, and by exiting somewhat too perceptibly refreshed, he has offended against some propriety of public spaces that suppresses all knowledge of the need for them. But he addresses no one, asks nothing of them—and is not addressed by anyone, until he makes a sortie across the shop and the barista, a walking smiling training video, who seems to spend the majority of his shifts explaining company policies and procedures to his endless sequence of new coworkers, calls out, 'sir, the stirring bar'—or whatever pompous thing it is the corporate glossary says to call the stand with the napkins and sweetener and cream on it—'is for paying customers only'. He offers to get the man a tea, meaning a paid tea, but they resolve this disruption of order silently, transacting nothing, and the man returns to his corner.
There is a void of humanity where he sits. He's alone in it. It does not emanate from him; it encircles him, the very definition of someone who could be helped. We wrap him in it.
Another homeless man. Or? I don't know, don't try to know; all I can say is that he approaches a counter, lingering but not sitting, at another branch of the corporate coffeeshop down the road a ways, where I'm sitting, a paying customer. Apparently unable to draw me out of inattention as he wished, he hovers a bit closer, issues a gruff, inarticulate vocalization, and I turn, annoyed, some expression on my face: 'What is it?' He reads my expression for me: 'Don't beat me, don't beat me'. I lie to him: 'I don't have any cash'. I forget his line.
'That man is a drug addict', another customer pronounces to the others listening after he leaves. 'A criminal', she emphasizes, explaining how he cases the busy commercial street looking for unlocked cars; breaks into apartments; takes.
After he exits he stands off to the side in the shop's little parking lot for a long time, sullen, smoking. The baristas talk about whether calling police will be necessary.
A woman with a cart who trundles up and down the same street; I've seen her often and she in turn has seen me. Her plea is abrupt, unadorned: 'Do you have any money?'. I lie.
I keep seeing her around, but now what she sees is that I'm avoiding seeing her.
A woman working the room at the coffeeshop quietly but efficiently. She says she's a home care worker who can't get paid, or has lost work, can't cover rent, only needs so much. She carries a cup from the Starbucks across the street, the competition. It's been worked into her pitch, though I don't think about it until she calls it to my attention: 'Someone at the Starbucks was kind enough to buy this for me'. When she gets to her ask, I just tell her no. 'God bless you', she says, and means it. Soon she is hovering at a nearby bus stop, reading faces.
'Planted rows went turning past like giant spokes one by one as they ranged the roads. The skies were interrupted by dark gray storm clouds with a flow like molten stone, swept and liquid, and light that found its way through them was lost in the dark fields but gathered shining along the pale road, so that sometimes all you could see was the road, and the horizon it ran to. Sometimes she was overwhelmed by the green life passing in such high turbulence, too much to see, all clamoring to have its way. Leaves sawtooth, spade-shaped, long and thin, blunt-fingered, downy and veined, oiled and dusty with the day—flowers in bells and clusters, purple and white or yellow as butter, star-shaped ferns in the wet and dark places, millions of green veilings before the bridal secrets in the moss and under the deadfalls, went on by the wheels creaking and struck by rocks in the ruts, sparks visible only in what shadow it might pass over, a busy development of small trailside shapes tumbling in what had to be deliberately arranged precision, herbs the wildcrafters knew the names and market prices of and which the silent women up in the foothills, counterparts whom they most often never got even to meet, knew the magic uses for. They lived for different futures, but they were each other's unrecognized halves, and what fascination between them did come to pass was lit up, beyond question, with grace.'
Spring, and snow.
'It is high time for me to leave a world that is fast leaving me and that I shall not mourn.'
'… in a certain sense it seems that not wanting is the only good.'
Just as I was walking by, an old man shuffling along the icy sidewalk fell down. And his wife fell down. Only I was spared. The first thing that came into my head as I helped them up was to say, 'Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa, what's going on here?', as if there was way too much falling down going on. The old man was embarrassed, acting perplexed about what manner of bedeviling surfaces he was unfairly forced to contend with. 'Oh, I fall down all the time', I reassured him. (But I don't, not anymore, since I got new winter boots.)
'Oh, bless your heart', his wife told me.