Arthur removed a folded white handkerchief from his right hip pocket, wiped his eyes, blew his nose, then turned toward me. He had regained his composure, and only his red-rimmed eyes betrayed the distress he had just experienced.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t know where that came from. It just hit me, and I couldn’t control it.”
“I understand completely,” I assured him. “And there is absolutely no need to apologize. Think of it as the valve on a pressure cooker. You obviously needed that release.”
“I suppose I did,” he said, as we resumed our trek back to his office. “You know, it’s funny. I’ve been carrying a clean, white handkerchief in my pocket every day for as long as I can remember. I never use it. I also carry a package of Kleenex. I think blowing your nose on a handkerchief is unseemly.
“Every day, when I take a clean, white handkerchief from the drawer and slip it into my hip pocket, I ask myself why I am doing that. And then today, the one day I forget to put that package of Kleenex in my jacket pocket, I find myself in need of that handkerchief—finally.”
I wasn’t looking at Arthur, but I sensed he was smiling. I knew I was.