His name is Lewis but almost nobody knows it. Some call him Smokey and have ever since he saved those kids from a house fire over on Pierce. A few call him The Riddler because that funny scar on his jaw sort of looks like a question mark.

Others call him The Walking Man because he so mysteriously wanders from one place to another. He’s been known to ride a Harley from time to time, but in general, he prefers to go on foot. It’s more intimate that way.

But most people just call him That Lewiston Guy, because that’s what he is. He’s the very face of the city through which he passes, blending like a lizard wherever he goes.

Downtown, near Walnut and Bartlett, he’s a tough guy with a heavy jaw and broad shoulders. The scuffed and patched bomber jacket looks like it may have survived a knife fight or two, doesn’t it? His nose is slightly crooked, a sign of familiarity with barrooms and pool halls, fists and knees. He has a way of lifting his lip like a snarling dog when it looks like there may be trouble. It doesn’t happen often. Few people find that they want to tangle with That Lewiston Guy.

A mile or so down the road, in front of the clubs and shops, he has undergone a transformation. He’s no longer snarling, but nodding at the people he passes. His hair is freshly washed and slicked back. He’s not smiling, exactly, but you can see the ghost of one in his eyes. That Lewiston Guy is happy to be out among his people and that happiness is infectious.

At the City Council meeting, his presence is heavy. He’s wearing a shirt and tie beneath the bomber jacket. He looks like a man who could glide into a Wall Street boardroom and silence the room. He doesn’t say much, but when he speaks, everyone else falls quiet. Even the creaking of chairs and the chatter of old pipes comes to a halt, as though the building itself is leaning in to hear what he has to say. His voice is deep and it rolls like far-off thunder. He doesn’t waste breath on windy oration, just states his business in a clear and thoughtful manner. He thanks the city leaders, nods at the rest of the room and then sits. The next time you look over, That Lewiston Guy is gone.

He has a criminal record, it’s true. That comes with the troubled past. But there is something in him that demands respect, nonetheless. This is a man who takes responsibility for his actions, who never asks for a thing he cannot earn for himself. He is a fellow of great integrity, one who will help you up from the pavement after he puts you there.

That Lewiston Guy does not use his fists if it can be avoided. He despises violence, and has so since the incident in 1989 on Lisbon Street. He considers fighting crass, and much prefers courtesy and reasoning to sort out a dispute. He is a man who can break up a fight with a few powerful words and he will send the combatants away smiling.

Charming? That Lewiston Guy is that. Hard-as-nails street girls, princesses with rich daddies and married women past their prime, they all swoon when he says hello. He is a poet of reticence, saying little but making each word matter. One sentence from That Lewiston Guy is more effective than a dozen roses, a sparkling necklace or all the high-priced cologne in the world.

Why isn’t he married, you’ve wondered many times? Why does he never walk with a beauty under his arm?

In fact, he was married once, to his childhood sweetheart. But that all ended after the incident of 1989 on Lisbon Street. It’s part of his grand sadness. That Lewiston Guy has never been able to look at another.

It’s hard to say what he does for a living. He might be independently wealthy, having invented something of great importance, sold the patent and invested his profits wisely. Or maybe he’s dirt-poor and simply doesn’t need much. It’s all very curious. He could be a prince or a pauper.

We don’t know where he lives or what he eats. You’ll see him at The Cage now and then, or at one of the newer clubs on Lisbon Street. He orders a glass of scotch and makes it last all night. He’s either frugal or disciplined. You get the sense that he was hooked on a chemical once and has come to respect that hook, even if it’s no longer in him.

He doesn’t smoke, That Lewiston Guy, although once in a while, he pulls a cigarette from a battered case and twirls it between his fingers, contemplative and perhaps rueful. After a while, he’ll put the cigarette away and pop a Lifesaver into his mouth.

He feeds stray cats and helps old ladies across the street. He knows his way around beneath the hood of a car and will get your engine running when all other attempts have failed. He is as comfortable in conversation with a crack dealer on Pine Street as he is with a local politician down at Simones.’ He knows the benefit and downside of the short, recoil-operated, locked-breech semi-automatic Glock 9 mm. He also knows which wine goes best with petite blanquette de poulet a l’estragon.

That Lewiston Guy is a man for all seasons, an enigma who reflects the paradoxical nature of the city itself. He’s a figment of my imagination, yes, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t real. There are components of him wandering around us all day and every day. The faces of Lewiston are many. They are at once charming and cruel, beautiful and hideous, noble and vain.

When a stranger comes from far away to visit us, he leaves with an image of That Lewiston Guy in his head. Sure, he was roughed up by a gang on Spruce Street. But he was also treated kindly by strangers when he crashed into a snowbank over on Ash.

His wallet was stolen while he was gassing up his car, but then he was invited in to The Blue Goose and wasn’t asked to pay for a beer all night.

A smug cop gave the stranger a parking ticket but then the clerk at the police station forgave him for it and provided directions back to the highway.

When that stranger gets back home, he’ll have oddly mixed memories. Was That Lewiston Guy a hero or a thug? Fair or foul? Beauty or beast?

Doesn’t matter to That Lewiston Guy. He has a troubled past, a broken heart and a murky future. But he also knows that if he just keeps walking, sooner or later he’ll get where he’s meant to be.

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. He gets thought-provoking, mad-rant e-mail from That Lewiston Guy at [email protected]

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