An Italian man has been coming to the old store where I work for years now as far back as I can remember. He comes into the back to take all the leftover produce, such as trimmings and vegetables and fruit going bad, which would be thrown out otherwise. Sometimes there are lots of boxes full for him, sometimes just one. He usually comes everyday with his truck.
"Allo, Paull", he says. Sometimes with, "It's a nica day today uh?"
Or something along those lines; we exchange pleasantries - and it's always pleasant.
Some people, you know they own a few acres or so, without having been told. People carry their worlds with them. This Italian man takes the leftover produce for his goats and sheep. He has an easy way; he's old but limber, has those brown Italian eyes that are wizened but soft.
And some people, you know they have a big family without having been told. I always help him with the boxes into his truck, unless there's only one and I'm busy with too many other things. Sometimes we get to talking more than usual. His accent from the old country is undiminished, like old sunshine.
For the longest time I did not know his name. One time during the days when I did not know his name, quite a few years ago, I was in the produce aisle and a man comes up to me in a very earnest, courteous manner. I think he had his hat in his hands. And he says to me, in a solemn, mannered cadence that I liked immediately, "I am here, on behalf of Giovanni".
I knew in a wink who he was talking about. Some people, you don't need to be told. So that's his name I said to myself. I believe he was Giovanni's brother, who was picking up the leftover produce for him while he was away on vacation.
Giovanni brought one of his sons with him once. And his son said with the same accent, only more diminished, "So now I can finally see where my dad spends his time". Not all of his time of course; he was joshing in a way. I could hazily picture his daily route from place to place. Often when putting the boxes into the back of his truck there are hay bales or animal feed.
Once, there was a bunch of piglets stirring around in a cage, pink and hairless and succulent - ready to be slaughtered, as he told me.
Somehow I knew without knowing that he owned a swimming pool in his rural property and that it was a familial junction for all the relatives, so that when he told me one time that the pump for his pool had broke, I seemed to already know he had a swimming pool.
A couple weeks ago, two stout and short men came to pick up the boxes of produce scraps. We didn't get to talking. One of them picked up the big crumpled ball of plastic wrap, which was what wrapped the skid of produce when it came in the morning, and he put it to the side, as though he was still at the farm where he worked cleaning up.
The next day Giovanni came and told me he had just gotten back from Germany: his son's wedding - one of his sons. After we got the boxes into the back of his truck, he told me: "Now alla seven of them are marreed, thatsa it. All of them marreed now." And it was something, perhaps, like when a monk of old before the times of the printing press, came out and announced to his fellow brothers that he had just finished the enormous feat of translating all four Gospels, or even the entire Bible. Like someone who has gone from fulfillment to fulfillment, accepting, and more importantly, submitting to, the ways of life, without trying to bend it this or way or that.
Some know how to live.