He sits with his head in his hands swaying back and forth. Inner turmoil pulls with fingers numb from years of toil and weighing options. He wanted to do the right thing before he stepped off a ledge of chance following his heart with twisted passion that had not yet ripened. Chill winds blew in off the southern slopes. Most in the camp hid in their tents waiting for spring. Some wandered the streets for opportunity and warmth when the winter snap felt merciful. They are the social immigrants that slipped when no one was looking. Their journey is made as a daily pilgrimage for survival. All they have are their signs to communicate to the other side, pleading for understanding, longing for hope.
The reality tore at the fabric of the man. A dozen or so signs littered the ground around him as if one was just not enough to convey the collapse of his spirit. Each cried out for something different. Prayers and service and food and family and clothes for warmth. So much needed to be said, so much forgiven.
After awhile of studying this man from my curb, I realized that I could be the only one who sees him. People just kept passing without a glance or notice. I thought of the saying, “Live within thy means and keep thy means simple.” It was too late to approach the man with this. I thought about writing my own sign to warn people. To remind others to take care. The measure of spirit can be known when all that remains is the memory of one’s experience.
Carefully, the man rearranged his signs into a pad and laid his head onto it. He was back in his other world now having found only an audience of one.
I was pulled through the veil separating our two worlds. Maybe there was a chance for better days. Perhaps love would seep in through the cracks somehow? The love signature can keep us during certain times of struggle, self loathing, and uncertainty. I felt challenged by this, but could not deny the pull to consider this plausible root into the degradation of a beautiful human. I would carry his message, a final gift to this world. He would depart into the frozen landscape and remain still like a portrait etched on the mindeye of our perspective. My empathy was screaming out at the world, but people just kept passing mindlessly unaware of the change that began to transcend.
I felt lighter, either through my own rationale or for the appreciation of his experience and what it meant for my own life. He refused my hand when I offered it and simply said through slightly cured lips, and a voice hoarse from weathered tobacco, “Man, just remember beauty.” He was so eloquent in his profound perfunctory. I began looking for it everywhere, words branded like forgiveness that shelters our path from the hypocrisy of judgment and where truth opens its arms to the blossom of our soul.
I am fit and strong with a creative mind and genuine love for those I meet. I remember this as a child; ingrained from the streets of Oakland where the spaghetti plate made its love mark with the travesties of otherwise beautiful people.