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been one of those warmish days between winter and
spring, but now the sun has set and the dusk is deepening.
My bones are weary, and my eyes feel out of round in
their sockets as I drive home from the office. I am a
casualty of the business world, that whirlwind of
meaningless activity leading toward a grand total of
zero on the famous bottom line. I now pull over and stop
my car alongside the road. I have always wanted to do
this, and now I will. No, I won't go back to my
prefabricated, prethought, predigested, prerotted life
in that meaningless suburb. I will just walk. I will
beg. I will have nothing and want nothing.
Non-attachment is the time-honored way to happiness, as
proven time and again in the East.
the keys in what was my car. Anyone who wants this thing
can take it. I won't be needing a car now. I walk ahead
to the next cross street and turn left, not knowing or
really caring what street it is. Ahead of me on the
sidewalk a boy about twelve years of age is walking his
little black-and-white spotted dog. The dog crouches in
some tall grass by a utility pole and does his duty. The
boy praises him with "Good boy, Jock. Good
boy." I continue to follow them, but they pay no
attention to me. Soon they turn into the sidewalk in
front of a small yellow house and go in. The fading
daylight is giving way to the artificial light of the
will I stay tonight? I don't know. There are many houses
along here, but I don't want to ask anyone to put me up
for the night. Shall I try to walk to a motel? I have
about $150 in my pocket. But no. Why would I want to
stay in a motel and pay money like a businessman? I will
just stay in my body tonight, wherever my body happens
to be. If it's on a park
bench, so be it. If it's in a mansion, so be it. In a gutter? Fine.
along for a few blocks and turn left again. Where will I
go? I have now given away everything except my clothes
and my wallet. Shall I walk north up to the street where
the bridge is, cross the river, then walk west? Or shall
I walk south out into the country? I could even walk
east into the "changing" neighborhood. It
doesn't matter. Why do I even need to walk? Will I be
picked up as a vagrant? No, not with this suit on, and a
trench coat. Am I crazy? Should I be locked up? I don't
feel crazy. I just gave up everything, that's all. No
guess I'll go north up the street, turn west, and cross
the bridge. I don't know what's beyond the bridge very
far, but it doesn't really matter, does it? Something is
walking north just like I know what I'm doing. As I
reach the bridge street, a policeman drives by in his
squad car. I smile and tell myself what a bad boy I am,
leaving everything sensible behind and not playing the
middle-class game. I should probably turn myself in, but
I don't think I will. No, I need to see how this comes
west and soon reach the bridge, smiling at how
ridiculously symbolic it to cross a bridge on my way to
the unknown. I should write a novel about or at least a
short story. Maybe I won't live long enough to fill up a
novel. Over the railing the dark, peaceful river is
visible in the fading dusk. Two ducks swim
effortlessly and smoothly out from under the bridge,
each leaving a little wake. One of them sees me and
quacks. Then the other one quacks. Just one quack apiece
-- no big deal for them. I lean against the railing for
a long while, lost in thoughts as I stare down at the
deep dark, moving waters. With a little inner ceremony,
I take off my necktie, stuff it in my pocket, and
continue west across the bridge.
on the other side of the river, but strangely it seems
as though I'm heading east. I haven't turned around, but
as I walk I could swear that the sky ahead of me is
beginning to lighten as if the sun were rising instead
of setting. There is a fragrance in the air, too, that I
haven't detected in a long time. The smell of lilacs. It
isn't time for lilacs yet, but there is that
unmistakable fragrance. Yes, the sun is rising in the
west. I look around and see a robin pulling at a worm in
the grass along the sidewalk twenty feet away. The robin
notices that I am too close, and gives me a staccato
scolding as it flutters up into a nearby maple tree.
a little park not far ahead, a park I have never noticed
before. Not surprising, as I don't recall ever having
walked in this neighborhood. On a bench by the sidewalk
sits an old man with short white hair, staring at the
approaching sunrise in the west.
there" I offer. "Why is the sun rising in the
where it always rises," he replies quietly.
"That's where it always rises."
if I sit down here and try to figure this out?"
you live around here?" I ask him.
right here. I live right here."
this park bench?"
you have a house or an apartment?"
I don't need one."
see." I watch a small woodpecker walk straight up
the side of a large oak tree about half way across the
park. He switches on his head like a jackhammer and
attacks a rotten branch. The sunshine is now catching
the top leaves of his old tree.
do you eat?" I ask after a long silence.
here." He points to his mouth.
good," I chuckle. "That's where I eat too. No
sweat, huh? Life pretty much takes care of itself, does
you have a family?" I ask after a short silence.
he replies quickly but without emotion.
I do have a job. I meet the people who come across that
bridge, and I answer their questions. It's usually not
too hard. They ask pretty easy questions."
you a philosopher?"
so's you'd notice. I just sit here and talk to the
people. It's not too hard."
you think it's necessary to fit into the city rat race?
Go to work, come home, spend money, get tired, go to
bed, every day and every day?"
you get your weekends off", he replies with a wry
know what I mean. What is the point of all of this
gaining and losing, loving and hating, waking and
don't know." He rubs his white-stubbled chin.
"What do you think?"
don't think there's any point to it. That's why I've
decided to just wander and beg for the rest of my
man smiles a little and looks me squarely in both eyes.
I can see infinity in his deep blue eyes. His glance is
amazingly deep, yet warm and harmless.
going to beg? What if no one gives you anything?"
he asks, those blue eyes twinkling now.
what will that accomplish?"
will driving a late-model car and living in a suburban
home with TV-watching kids and a security-loving wife
accomplish? Nothing. There's not a thing to lose. I need
so", he mumbles quietly. "Maybe so."
quickly from the park bench, nimble for his apparently
advanced years, and pulls me to my feet. "You can't
get along begging without some training. High thoughts
won't fill your stomach. Why don't you come along with
me for awhile? I'll show you how I do it."
be an odd sight, I think to myself as the two of us walk
along the sidewalk together, westward into the rising
sun. Robins are hopping unpredictably in the grass,
cocking their heads and stabbing the ground for their
worms. A chattering cloud of sparrows flutters over us,
heading toward the branches of a budding magnolia tree.
They all perch in it and nearly fill it up, jumping
excitedly from branch to branch.
name is Fred", I offer. "What's your
on the next page.
by Ram Dass.
has written poetry, aphorisms, and essays on a variety of subjects. He
has published several volumes of poetry, such as Poems That Search and Poems That
Question; Sparks from the Flame; a book of aphorisms entitled Spared
for Seed; as well as web-based poetry books (www.alharris.com/poems). This article was first published in Circle of Love, Yorkville, IL.
Alan's paid careers (of various lengths) have included farming, music
education, English education, piano tuning, journalism, computer
programming, systems analysis, and Web development. Since retirement as
a corporate Web developer in Chicago, he is dividing his time between
creative writing and designing non-commercial Web sites. The author's
website is http://www.alharris.com
and he can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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