‘I Am Too Serious’

“MAN IN THE WINDOW.” | High Street, Columbus, Ohio | TheStoryIsTheThing.Substack.com photo | december2022


By Douglas John Imbrogno


I think this often when I post stuff to the interweaving web. I am just too serious. Too serious for the daily social media maelstrom, where a somewhat too-serious photo like the one above will drop onto a hundred-odd timelines and just sit there, amid the party chatter and cordial, often heart-hurt network. Here are my victories, here are my losses, here’s who — I am so broken-heartedcrossed the rainbow bridge last night. This may be, now, for a certain age of us, the function of this space called Facebook or wherever you share you. We share postcards of our faces, snapshots of our prides and joys, our grand bucket-list vacations, chitter-chatter, the dog who loved us without reserve and whom we loved so dearly back. The wounds we now no longer have anyone in our houses to heal. So, we ask around for prayers, a hearing. Is this thing on?!?

‘GLITTERY COUPLE.’ | High Street, Columbus, Ohio | TheStoryIsTheThing.Substack.com photo | december2022


I snap the shot of the man in the window the way I do most of my street photography. My Iphone snatched from the right-hand cell-phone pocket of the only sort of pants I now buy (ones with cell-phone pockets). Snapping. Capturing. Clipping a moment from the endless, sweeping succession of them. Returning the phone to its concealment, like a gun in a leather holster worn smooth by time, so there is nothing in the way of drawing it. Later, in the Parable Coffee Shop up High Street or back at the Air BnB, I see which speak to me. Or, rather, I hope, to find which ones of them speak … It is this ineffable sense beyond my brain’s normal sluice of ratiocination.

This one doesn’t work. Nor that. Nor that. This one sort of does. This one really works. None of these rest work. I delete all the ones except for what really works. To my eye. Or to the eye of whatever Viennese Muse or Silk Road Spirit flies onto the balcony of the open-air garret in the back of my too-breezy mind. Comes inside for a splash of Campari and anise biscotti. Says: I like that one. I hate all those others. See you. And is gone for another two days. Or weeks or years. You may disagree with our judgment. Scroll to the next iteration of something more interesting to your tastes. Meanwhile, I pull the next photo I think worth more than an abbreviated glance into my sprucing-up program, licking down the hair that’s jutting up. Finding how best to be true to what I first saw..

‘HEY, YOU KIDS, GET OFFA’ MY BUILDING.’ | TheStoryIsTheThing.Substack.com photo | High Street, Columbus, Ohio | december2022


I am not serious enough. I pass a chunky white man with patchy beard, kneeling like a penitent in a darkened High Street doorway. He holds out a hand-scrawled sign on a piece of crappy cardboard — the universal appeal of helplessness — seeking benefactors. Hungry. Homeless. Veteran. Help. Every which way, we hipsters, semi-hipsters, Ohio U. students in soft, baggy clothes, the dressed-to-impress couples in their 40s, diamonds and watches sparkling, passing by the green soft-drink cup he has put out for donations to the current cause of his life. There on the High Street sidewalk.

I pass him by, tightening the cool — I mean fashion-cool, but it is warm, too — long, black-gray-and-white linen scarf recently purchased from Amazon. I love this scarf. It may be dashing, even, as I am up to three compliments after just a week. But I am most liking how it secures my body heat without itching up my skin. I may cherish it. I walk on three blocks to my car parked along High. It is one of those sorts of cold nights whose brilliant chill probes past missed coat buttons and comes after your abdominal heat. To steal it, leaving your organs and bones shivered. The kind that ends an evening out.

Let’s go back to the room and get warm

I click my car doors open. My wallet is empty of cash. I’ve given the dollars left in it to another guy on the street in yesterday’s pattering icy rain. Bless you, man. I know I have money somewhere hidden away, just for this purpose. I find a stashed 20-dollar bill. I am thinking it will be a haul for a guy on the street. Then again, I’ve just dropped $60 on a meal at the “So Cal Kitchen” Del Mar, being sure to add a 25 percent tip to Jake, tattooed up his neck with runes and ley lines, a rockstar waitstaffer. And yesterday, my VISA gets clocked for $150 for three of us at Lincoln Social Rooftop on Short North. I am not made of money. The minister of finance back home has sent up red flags. But whenever possible, I stuff 5s, 10s, and 20s into my car’s crannies — someone out there will need them bad. I stuff the bill into a zipper baggy. Add a peanut-butter Cliff Bar and a chocolate-mint energy bar. Stride back toward the man. Get to him. Kneel.

“THE GIRL & THE SLEEPER.” | A woman off the street — was she out there all night long? — huddles up for rest and warmth in Parable Cafe on High Street in Columbus, Ohio, on a Sunday morning, as a girl nearby has a Mom Moment. | TheStoryIsTheThing.Substack.com photo | december2022


Hey, here you go. What’s your name? Where’d you serve? He nods in thanks. Stuffs the bag into a pocket. He’s wearing two layers, a black winter coat over a dirty-red hoodie drawn over his head, kneeling on an orange cotton cloth. Tom. That’s his name. He takes off his black knit cap. Syria. Iraq. A shell took off part of the top of my head. I wince. He points to a jagged line on his head. The Med Evac was the best. Saved my life. He’s homeless right now. I sleep in the park. He got cut out of his wife’s money after she died, he says, missing a page he should have signed. In three weeks, he will get his benefits back. Then, I want to get a small place. He pauses. I just want some food, right now. Smiles.

Tom has ice-blue eyes. He was a handsome man back in the day. Do you have a scarf? Nope. I unwrap my linen scarf. Hand it to him. Wrap that once around your neck. He does. The black-white-and-grey linen ends drape on either side of his chest like a priest’s stole. You hang in there man. Only the best for you. You deserve it. We fist bump. And I am gone down the street and back soon to my apartment. Thinking I can have Amazon wing the self-same scarf to my porch in days.

Tossing and turning in bed — life comes at you fast — I think. Maybe I should have given him the sofa in the other room? Or this cozy bed, so he could wrap at least one night against the December chill. Am I not serious enough? But then, I have a family challenge in my life underway. Someone may need my complete attention in the morning. I roll over, in search of sleep’s absolution, receiving only weird dreams in recompense. In the hours after dawn, arisen from the cushion, I look out from my fifth floor aerie, out across the Columbus streets. Wonder where Tom spent his night. Checkout is at 11.

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