“I have a life again.”
Marv had more than one reason for giving Alva a gift. He had noticed how preoccupied she had been for the past couple of weeks. It was not like her. He had watched her, as only the invisible person can watch others. First from the alley behind her restaurant. Day after day, as he went through the dumpster and hid from view, he heard Alva and Raoul talking. And he saw how she fed and nurtured the stray cats. And heard other people talking about her on the street, coming and going from the restaurant.
The talk was always about how Alva had helped this one or that one, how Alva Patterson was such a good soul, how Alva Patterson was the neighborhood’s best friend. And now Alva seemed to need help. So he found the clock in a thrift store by the church. He polished it and took it apart and figured out how to make it work like new. Now all he had to do was find a way to let her unburden herself.
They set the time and she placed the little clock on the mantel.
“I could get that fireplace working for you, if you like,” Marv offered. “And I could bring up some wood. It might be nice to have a fire going on these cold nights when you come back from the restaurant.”
“Yes,” Alva said. “That would be nice. I ’preciate that.”
“Alva?” Marv began.
“Watchoo got on your mind?” she asked.
“I wanted to tell you something about myself,” Marv answered.
“About what happened to you?” Alva asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“It’s always good to unburden yourself,” she said. “I’ll be glad to hear your story.”
“You probably wondered how I sank so low,” Marv said.
“We all connected in some way,” Alva said. “And when one of us starts to fall, we all got to get together and lift him back up. Ain’t no other way to survive in this world.”
“Not everyone feels the way you do,” said Marv. “Most people, when they see someone down like I was, they act as if he’s invisible. He no longer has any value to other people and he becomes like a rat in a crevice, hiding and watching for a chance to dart out and take something he needs. People feel threatened by that. And they want to eradicate it like they would that rat.”
So Marv told of how he’d been an architect, with a girlfriend and hopes of starting a family. Then the economy went sour, interest rates shot up, people stopped building and he was fired in a downsizing that knocked out almost half his company’s employees. From that day, Marv’s life began to fall apart. Everything he had worked for slipped away like a mist. He couldn’t get another job because all the firms had been hit. He began to stay out late because he was too ashamed to come home and face his girlfriend. He started drinking, going from bar to bar, until one day he came home to find his girlfriend had packed up and left. He couldn’t pay the rent and was evicted. He sold his car for cash to stay afloat for a short time, but then he went through everything he had until one day he found himself with nothing at all. He ended up in a homeless shelter and then on the street. So he began to wander, scrounging what he could, begging sometimes, stopping at church suppers when he heard of them, going from one dumpster to the next, finally ending up in the alley behind Alva’s Café, which is where he first saw Alva and Raoul and the cats.
“And now, because of you, I have a life again. I may not be ready to start all over or go back to where I was, but at least I’m not a train wreck anymore,” he concluded.