My Encounter with Richard
May 23, 2017
I had just finished my fifth interview with Dale; and after taking a deep breath of relief having finally completed my research, I began to walk back to my car in the parking lot behind the baseball diamond. Distracted by the massive navy and gold San Rafael Pacific’s banners being hung on the outdoor walls of the stadium, I nearly walked into a man who was lying peacefully in the field. I jumped to my left and awkwardly yelped, “sorry, sir!” The man looked puzzled. He remained frozen on the turf, moving only to take a swig of his nearly empty Schweppes bottle. His black Adidas track suit was tied around his waist, allowing him to showcase his white “FINLANDIA VODKA” cotton shirt. “Have you ever seen this book?” He handed over a copy of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky that looked like it had survived a volcanic eruption. The cover was nearly torn off, the text of each page was severely faded; yet this flimsy pocketbook was the prized possession of the stranger laying on the ground in front of me, claiming he never went anywhere without it. I told him I had heard of the book many times, but I have never read it myself. His eyes sparkled at the opportunity to explain his favorite tale. “Well,” he grinned, “we have a lot to talk about.”
At this point, I felt I should probably take out my recorder.
“It’s a tragedy. Well, there’s good parts too, but Raskolnikov just can’t catch a break.” Raskolnikov is the protagonist in Crime and Punishment. “He is completely alienated from society, but he knows he is smart. He starts out with a lot of pride because he knows how smart he is. But throughout the story, he gradually forgets. He gets so caught up in his own head that he realizes he’s only mediocre, and he becomes depressed.” Stunned at this man’s drastic shift in tone, I struggled to think of an appropriate response. “I’m Richard, by the way.” Richard and I continued to chat about the story. He told me about Raskolnikov’s passions in life, then asked me about mine. I explained that I am very intrigued by art in nearly all forms, and he delightfully agreed. About ten minutes later, I found myself sitting on the hill of Albert Park in deep conversation with a homeless man whom I almost tripped over shortly before. “You know what, Sam,” Richard sighed, taking his final sip out of the Schweppes bottle. “Sometimes, I feel like I’m Raskolnikov.”