THE HOMELESS MASTER
About 20 years ago, I worked in Center City, Philadelphia for an insurance company, and I’d take the speed line from New Jersey to a stop a few blocks from my office. Along my walk in, there used to be a homeless guy just sitting on the sidewalk. I’d watch people go by him, paying him no attention save the inconvenience they had either walking over him or around him.
I would often buy a large fruit bowl from one of the roach coaches near the train station. I’d eat some for breakfast, and give him the rest. Every morning, he’d say thank you with a “much love, brother” when I’d hand him the box of fruit.
One day, he asked me why I gave him breakfast so often. “Because I feel bad you are homeless,” I replied. He laughed, a belly laugh, exposing his missing teeth as his eyes lit up with joy.
“I take the box because I feel sorry for you,” he said.
“You feel sorry for me?”
“Well, yeah. Look at unhappy you are, working every day to make someone else rich. You’re so afraid of being free that you’ve put yourself in a prison you call a home and a cell you call a job, working for the man. You won’t see any bars around me.”
“Yeah, but you need charity just to survive,” I replied, feeling defensive.
“True, but don’t we all? Your’s comes from the man who signs your paycheck, mine comes from people like you.”
“But I provide something to get my paycheck…”
“How do you feel when you give me breakfast?” he asked.
“I feel pretty good. Or at least I did.”
“Then I provide you something to get my breakfast. Tell me, which is the more important service?”
I smiled. “I gotcha.”
“Beggars like me provide everyone a service. For some, it’s a reminder of where they could end up. It brings up the fear they have in being completely free, of being unlike their parents, their friends, their family. For others, I give them a sense of love. For many of those people they don’t feel love until they give me something. I think I provide a wonderful service, and it costs me nothing.”
He was truly a wonderful gift, wrapped in tattered clothing, dirty skin, and a rancid smell that shrouded his beautiful heart. 20 years later and I still remember him, his freedom, and his perspective.
“A beggars bowl is never empty. It’s always filled with love.”
I always thought you were beautiful. I would gaze at you from a distance, knowing you barely knew my name. I would admire your eyes, they curve of your mouth, the way your hair flowed just right. I’d listen to your voice, and I would hear it echo all around me.
I remember it. Clearly. I would think about you in my childish way, lacking both the confidence and the courage to do something about my thoughts. I’d meander about in fantasy, knowing what I’d have to offer, yet believing that you never would be able to see it.
Today, there you were, and my breath lost pace with the rest of me. I won’t mention the place, or the forum, or the way in which I saw you, but there you were. It doesn’t appear you’ve changed much over the years, but I know through experience that decades have changed us all. You’re still beautiful, with the soft eyes of a warrior that could both melt and sear through a man at the same time. Your mouth still curves in that way it always has, and your hair still looks perfect regardless of its intention.
I can’t hear your voice, but somehow it is there, echoing in my mind, Remembered are the insecurities of my youth, the frustration of wanting yet surrendering, of reaching and having the treasure fall just out of reach. Those memories contrast nicely with the man I’ve become. Strong, secure, a man who knows himself and has no fear in the desires of his heart and mind. If you only remembered my voice too, what a moment we could have.
There you are. I remember you, all of you. My breath finally catches up, and I just sit, gazing at the wonder of you. What are the stories you have to tell? Where are the scars, the wounds, and the empty spaces you’ve left waiting for the one? Who is the one you crave, the one you hold your breath waiting for?
So many things, so little time. Just know that I remember you.
The pit. It’s there. I can feel it in my every breath, taste it in the very air that sustains me.
I know I want to find you, to meet under the pines. We’ll sit chatting while listening a mountain stream as it passes, softly throwing tiny shore-borne pebbles into its waters. We’ll tell tales of a journey that led us to the place, of streams we once saw, of pebbles we once threw.
I want you here, your head laying softly on my shoulder, our fingers entangled and our hands clasped. I want to feel your breath on my skin. I want to hear your sigh as my fingertips draw lines on your naked back, teasing you onward. I want to stop you in the middle of a sentence, diverting your attention and shattering your focus with nothing more than a touch,
Yet here I am on this stony path, talking to myself about things that hardly matter. I admire the woman walking toward me, and acknowledge her form and her smile. She is not you, however, so I keep walking. Desires of the flesh can only take me so far, as I am a connoisseur of a truth few chefs can prepare.
I sit alone besides the Boulder creek, watching with joy the couples in love, seeing pleasure in people riding tubes down the crystal-clear currents. Next to me is nothing, just an empty spot where the future lies in a lonely present. My heart screams for you as my mouth stays silent. Only the ether, that lonely space between us, knows my truth. That is as it is supposed to be.
I want you to move, but I say nothing. I want you to hurry, but focus on patience. I want you to know, but can only hope your eyes are open to such discovery. Instead, I’ll sit alone, whispering to the leaves, praying to the wind, and longing for a sun shared with you in a morning climb, a night together making love under a loving moon. All things in their time, everything in its place.
The emptiness speaks to me. It knows I understand each and every word. It once was my foe, and I battled it with random companions, hollow words and meaningless rituals. I once demanded the emptiness be filled, and I needed to change to see it gone. I needed to be different, I needed to be “fixed”. I needed to be loved. Together once meant everything to me, and I once fought hard to keep it next to me. The more I fought, the less “together” I would become.
Now, the emptiness is my friend. It is sacred space, left open for you for that moment when you choose to arrive. Each place next to me is hallowed ground, empty to all but the truth of who I am. My hand is now a holy vessel, empty but for the most cherished of things. I am empty, and waiting, for you.
Your name is unimportant. That is best left to soothsayers and whatever guides us to each other. Your face, it’s there but I just can’t see it. Your word are written for me on some eternal stone, just waiting to be read. Your body is waiting for my arrival, as are the waves of pleasure wanting so desperately to break upon our shores. I hear them, and feel them, calling out my name.
If I do leave this earth, the space beside me still empty, my hand outstretched to nothing but the air, I will come back for you. In some way, in some form, in some crazy manner, you will see me and you will know. I will not leave this place without reading your words upon that stone, tracing their curves with my fingers, playing with their meaning in my mind. I will not leave until you shout my name to the heavens above. I will not leave until our screams of ecstasy move birds from their perch, and serve notice to all things, that Love cannot be beaten. I will not leave until the emptiness is filled, both yours and mine, with something equal to its cause.
Make your way when you are ready. I will be here, tossing pebbles in the stream.
“Stop playing in the shallows!” I want to scream in her direction, yet remain silent in my own repose. She is where she has chosen to be, and I leave her as the mistress of her own destiny.
Still, I have my indignation. I can hear her soul screaming out to the ether demanding something more. I can see it in the faux, two-dimensional smiles she shares. I can see it in her absent stillness, and feel in the remarkable dreams she once had shared.
I could see it in her disdain as I pulled away, lost in a battle I needed to wage alone, and could feel it in the moment she realized there was nothing she could do. There it was, a microcosm of all there is, in a single raindrop streaming down her face.
We still adore each other, in that there is a certainty. When warriors find their frailty, it is their love that holds them steady. When cuts bleed and wounds appear, it is the love that shines on through. When a man can no longer stand on his own two feet, it is his lover that holds him steady.
One cannot understand the strength of things bound in the hands of such a love unless he has been there himself. One cannot understate the notion that we are brought together and driven apart, by events and circumstances not of our choosing. Still, we are creatures of choice, both blessed and burdened by the very free will that defines us. Sometimes the strong survive, sometimes the dust wins.
I will never know when that last first kiss is coming, nor will I know when that only final kiss will arrive. Yet, I know that first dates need never end, and that a single kiss can be stretched into an eternal act that heaven itself cannot contain. I know that tears are not forever, weakness often fades, and “goodbye” is rarely the end of things. I know that one day I will type my last, sigh a single, final breath, and fade from view like a cloud on a summer’s day. Yet, I will never stop loving you. Even in the way we do, the promise of two friends holding hands in the sunlight, of two humans who so thoroughly understand one another, this cannot fade. The Universe is built on such intentions, and though stars made change and heavens may fade away, that which holds them dear lives on forever.
That is the forever bond. That is the promise we are given at conception and the promise we pass on in our final moment. It is the smile, the tear, the joy and the heartbreak we all choose to experience. It is two worlds colliding, a star exploding, a galaxy birthed around the very blackness that will destroy it. It is the beginning and end of things that truly never begin and certainly never end. I love you, and I always will. One day, I will write it in the stars.