Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lives of others

When I mentioned the neighbourhood oddity to a girlfriend a week ago, with a laugh, she accused me of being a spy, or a stalker, probably both!

I noticed the car, and him, a couple of months ago, parked  in a residential street, under a giant fig, adjacent to the park and close to a community hall. At first I thought he must have been facilitating or participating in classes run at the hall, given I usually noticed his presence in the early evening on my regular walk to the beach. Then, during my days off, twice or three times a week, I began to notice the car parked in the usual place, during the day.  Sometimes he’d be sitting in it, sometimes on the grass, clothes draped over the hedge, his face in a book. Sometimes he was nowhere to be seen.   Occasionally I noticed him ambling back through the caravan park, a towel draped over his shoulder.  He’s worked out the code to the toilet block, I figured.  My suspicion and curiosity were aroused.  It’s the detective in me, a natural gift. It behoves employment, Your Honor!  Was he homeless, or waiting, waiting  terminally for something or someone?  One day, when I made certain he wasn’t in or near his car, not an old Kombie but a new and spunky wagon, I ventured to peek inside.  Every now and then I horrify myself with my gall!  It was crowded with life - books, soft furnishings, clothes. The front passenger seat was sprayed with a bouquet to nature, shells, feathers, botanical specimens, sand.  What caught my attention mostly though was the Buddhist artifacts, a mala, vajra, Buddha statue.

In my indefatigable way, I vowed  to say hello.  Yesterday, passing his car, I smiled.  He smiled back.  I approached.  We talked. Yes, homeless, after a 28 yr relationship, everything gone.  As I leaned on his passenger side window, a light rain falling, we spoke of identity, home, schooling, praise, children, food and comfort.  In the space of 15 minutes I detected not an ounce of bitterness, but a warm soft voice, an unfidgetting presence,  vulnerable brown eyes and unflinching openness.  Here was a man doing it tough in a seemingly blameless and courageous way.  I’ve been homeless, and when I look back into that time, I feel a profound mix of despair and liberation.

Like the detritus and scum washed down the river and into the sea following days of wild wild weather, how we manage the muddy waters of this life during the difficult times, I believe, maketh man.