[ This photograph of actor Sterling Hayden is in the public domain. ]

A Man Drops by to Pay His Rent

He wanders in off the sidewalk, an enviable aloofness
about him. Lucky me to be occupying this cozy spot
close to the entrance, Reception.
I’m the gofer for Pro-Man, a kind of property
management software company.
Tan and virile in Aussie hat, khaki shirt, and hiking shorts,
I don’t recognize him.
My cube neighbor becomes alert, whispers,
“Do you know who that is? Shush. Quiet. He wrote Wanderer?
About that boat… no? And he was General …”
Here to drop off a check, he flirts leaning over my desk.
Smoky liquor breath not too strong.
Suddenly I realize he must be that famous guy in Dr. Strangelove!
I think of “precious bodily fluids.” General Ripper?
I’m gawking at a cult legend—
epitome of bad behavior and brilliance. An occupant
of Côte de Azure, my boss’s condominium development
on the steep end of Sausalito.
My boss is so handsome I can barely stand to look at him
when he talks to me. He should be from Hollywood,
his nautica blue Mercedes SL and life
in a split-level, blond wife with darling kids,
prime view of the Golden Gate.
“There’s only two things in this world that a real man needs:
a cup of coffee and a good smoke.”
That’s Hayden in Johnny Guitar.
I would offer coffee, preferably laced with aquavit or rum.
He tips his hat and dissolves through the center door.
My afternoon runs after him like phantom paparazzi.