Earl stared at her without looking at her. “Food.”
“Well, it’s a grocery store. I got plenty,” she replied.
Earl nodded and shifted his gaze around picking up various products—SPAM, stew, sardines, and a couple of cans of beans. Georgina stepped back and studied him carefully. Despite looking ragged, Earl was very clean and smelled of sage, which only mystified her more.
“I’m also gonna need some pots and pans, dishes and utensils,” he said.
“Sugar, this isn’t the Woolworth, I sell groceries.” She eyed him carefully and imagined he would be attractive cleaned up. “What do you need all that stuff for anyway?”
“I moved in down the road,” he said.
“Down the road? There ain’t nothing down the road.”
“Old silver mine, ‘bout a mile east,” he said.
Georgina stared at Earl knowing the old mine had been deserted over a hundred years ago.
Earl grinned noting her confused expression. “Bought it from the state. They gave me a great deal.”
“I’m sure they did,” she replied and did not ask any more questions although there were loads on her mind. She knew there were many things that brought a person to the outskirts of society. She too was an outcast. “Well look, I go into the city once a week. I can pick some stuff up for you if you’d like.”
“That would be much appreciated.” Earl pulled out a wad of cash to pay for his purchase of can meats and milk. “How much do you need?”
Georgina eyed his money. Her imagination reeled at how such a derelict looking man came into so much cash. Again, she questioned his intentions. Is he a thief or even worse a killer? Did he win his money in the casino? Was it life savings? “I’ll pick it up and you can pay me back.” She gazed up into his eyes which she found quite sultry. They expressed fatigue and sadness. “Should I drop it off at your new place?”
“No,” he replied abruptly. “I’ll be back to pick it up.” He looked down at his purchase on the counter. “How much do I owe you?”
“Twenty dollars and five cents,” she said. Earl handed her two twenties and waited patiently for his change. “Where are you from originally?” she asked.
Earl looked at her as if it was an odd question. He laughed. “Originally?”
“People come from all over you know. Just yesterday I had a couple from Minnesota, and the other day two young lovers from Kansas, who was off to get married. They come from everywhere,” she explained.
Earl leaned in toward Georgina. “The question is where do they belong? That is the question we must all ask.” He lifted his purchase in his arms. “Thanks. See ya ‘round, and thanks for getting the stuff.” He left with a gentle swinging of the screen door and a ringing of the bell.
A few days later, Georgina was more than pleased Earl liked his new kitchen supplies. She was taken aback when Earl reacted awkwardly to her other gifts—a couple of t-shirts, a pair of sweatpants and some toiletries. She even had the inspiration to buy him some décor to spruce up the old dump. “You don’t like it.”
There is a danger for a man when a woman starts buying him presents; she is buying herself into his life. How do I break it to the sweet woman? A life as a hermit does not work when I have a woman looking after me. “No. I do. Thank you. I will need these things.”
“Good,” Georgina sighed. She was lonely and having a man to shop for gave her purpose. “Anything you need just let me know.”
After Earl had stopped in a couple of more times at her store Georgina worked up the nerve to ask him to stay for a visit after she closed. All Earl wanted to talk about was the sky; he was obsessed with the stars. He outlined constellations with his finger, spoke of gods and goddesses and even recited poetry convincing Georgina at times that he did actually fall from the heavens. He was a gentle soul—an angel.
Time passed with many holidays and occasions. Christmases, Easters and the 4th of Julys came and went with similar fashion—Georgina decorating her patio for the season. Earl never disappointed, never left her hanging and never once did she have to celebrate alone, but as much as Georgina pressed, their relationship never progressed past the stars. It was a love she could never break through.
“What’s her name?” she asked.
“Andromeda,” Earl replied without hesitance. “You can see here up there shining so brightly. Isn’t she beautiful?”
Georgina tried to make out the constellation but even after all her conversations with Earl she could not make out Venus from a star. She was much more interested in Earl than the conversation or the constellations.
Earl raised his arm toward the sky and traced the stars with his finger and spoke with sweet devotion:
I left her there among the stars
She’s waiting for my return
With patience that chills her yearn
For a man who’s lost his way
On Earth’s dusty haze
I left her there supported by the stars
They huddle to her aid
When her mind often weighed
With thoughts of my demise
Through many suffocated cries.
I left her there, surrounded by the stars
It was for her own protection
But walking alone, I felt her connection
I know my heart, she cannot replace
And the love she has for my race.
Georgina swung on her love seat sadly admiring a man she could never have. “Can a man have more than one true love?”
“No,” he said.
His abrupt answer shook Georgina. If a man only has one true love what does it mean for a lonely woman with little contact with the world? She knew then Earl would never be the lover she dreamed of, just a sweet companion to grow old with. She should be grateful many people don’t even have that.