Monday, August 7, 2017


'The beginning is nigh', said the wild-eyed man. He looked like he had sprouted up from the ground and he smelt of the earth.

'Don't you mean the end is nigh?' I replied, causing him to fix his stare upon me. His eyes were brilliant blue, his expression inscrutable.

'No', he said. 'The end is coming to an end'.

His feet were bare and his hair was matted, his clothes were faded and frayed. His body was lean and tanned and on a string around his neck he wore a strange looking stone – orange and black.

'So....what's beginning then?' I inquired.

'I don't know - it hasn't begun yet'.

The old man seemed to lose interest, his eyes focussed somewhere behind me. I was just about to say cheerio when he spoke again: 'You are not here yet.'

'Mmm...okay', I replied. 'Any idea when I'll be here?'

'That is not for me to say', he mused. 'Perhaps soon; perhaps never.'

I took my leave of the old geezer (though what age he was i could not really say) and bade him farewell. I was nearly out of earshot when I heard him say: 'Remember'.

For the rest of the day my thoughts were constantly interrupted. I would try and concentrate on work only to suddenly realise that I was replaying my encounter with the crazy man. His appearance, his manner, his smell, his absurd declarations...I couldn't get him out of my mind. Realising it was hopeless I decided to go for a walk to clear my head.

Without meaning to I found myself back where I had met him. He wasn't there anymore but a few feet away a dead bird lay on the grassy verge, a Magpie. It's lifelessness somehow surprised me. I noticed the ants absorbed in their frantic dissections and found the whole tableau fascinating. I imagined the bird's skeleton picked completely clean.

I wondered where the old man was now. When I looked up he was walking towards me.

'The beginning is nigh', he said as our eyes met.

'I know - you told me this morning', I replied smiling.

'What do you want?' he said curtly, catching me off guard.

'I....I don't....what do you mean?'

'' he repeated, all the time boring into me with his brilliant eyes. I couldn't think; his gaze was paralysing.

'I don't know', I eventually replied, and I really didn't. Not only did I not know what I wanted of the old geezer (if anything), I realised that I didn't know what I wanted, period. I had no goals, ambitions, desires, other than those directly concerned with satisfying my bodily needs. My job was boring but solid; I lived in two bedroom flat that I could afford; I spent my evenings watching telly and on the Internet, and on the weekends I got drunk with friends and very occasionally got laid. My life had been like this for years, ever since I finished school. Now for the first time my life seemed to me like a resignation, like I had given up before I had begun. It seemed that my entire life had been laid out by someone else.

If I hadn't decided on this life, then who did? The absurdity was patent but I still couldn't shake the feeling that someone or something else had decided my life for me. It was as if I was just along for the ride and no one had ever asked me what I really wanted. It just happened this way and pretty soon I would be dead and that would be meaningless. I felt shitty.

The crazy hobo remained quiet as my totally lacklustre existence dawned on me and then my thoughts did a 180. I wasn't unhappy! What was going on here? I was lucky to have somewhere to live, money, a decent job. I had an old friend, Gav, who was homeless and borderline crazy - now that was fucked up! No, my life was bloody good by any sane standards. I decided to quiz the hobo myself: 'So what do you want then?'

He looked at me with those eyes, was silent for a while and then said, 'What I have'.

For some reason this riled me, I mean he obviously didn't have anything this bum, so I started to get going:

'So you are happy with nothing then? Nice to be so unencumbered is it? Must be great to be so free hey? Well you know that might work for you big guy, but I like a roof over my head and warm food and a shower and I like paying my way you know – pulling my weight. I mean my job may not save lives or anything but it needs to be done...and....well...'

My vehemence departed as swiftly as it came; what was left was a soft ambivalence. One moment I was sure this guy was pulling some moral high ground trip, the next I found myself up there alone....

All the while the old man just stood there, impassive. His gentle energy seemed to help me as if by contagion. The tension flowed out of me with my breath.

'Sorry 'bout that', I exhaled. 'I don't really know what's going on, I feel a little strange and...confused...and I am never usually so emotional. I think I thought you were judging me or something.'

Feeling that I still hadn't quite atoned for my outburst I mustered up my best bonhomie and continued, proffering a hand: 'By the way, I'm Adam'.

The old boy gently gripped my hand with his own (I noticed his clean fingernails) and said, 'Gavin'.

A frisson. He certainly wasn't my old mate Gav and yet I felt there was a connection if he had read my mind or something.

'So...Gavin, again, please forgive my rudeness, I honestly don't know what came over me. Can I buy you a coffee or something? Do you need any money?'

'A coffee would be nice', said the old man.

'Okay', I smiled.

When we got to the Green Bean – my favourite cafe – I was already counting the minutes. I had to get back to work soon, but I reasoned a quick coffee would be just the thing to get me going and, after all, I could always work late to catch up. We sat in my favourite corner looking out onto the street and soon one of the staff came over to take our order.

'Can I get you gentlemen something?' said the girl. I had noticed her before of course, although I didn't know her name. I knew that she had a small Chinese ideogram on the back of her neck that showed when she wore her hair up. Her dark brown hair was down today though, past her shoulders, flowing in waves, shimmering with vitality, as if it were somehow microscopically in motion, Jesus! how had I not noticed how beautiful this girl was before?

'Hmmm, soy latte thanks', I semi-garbled, still wondering at why I was so taken with her hair today - I never usually paid much attention to her. Gavin looked up into the girl's eyes and smiled and said, 'Cappuccino thanks Dawn'.

Dawn! - that was her name, I remembered. But how did he know? I couldn't picture him being a regular patron here, or anywhere. I mean he looked like Crocodile Dundee crossed with the Lorax or something. I think I would have noticed him around before, and I came here all the time.

'Do you know her?' I inquired.


'Then how did you know her name?'

'Sometimes I just know'


'Yes. It depends on the person.'

'Did you know my name?'

'No. I told you. You aren't here yet'

'What the hell does that mean?!' I yelled, exasperated and immediately embarrassed. 'Look...that just doesn't make any sense to me', I said in quiet frustration.

Gavin looked away for a couple of seconds and then said:

'You get born of the mother into this world. Some people also give birth to themselves. This second birth is what I am talking about.'

I was still quite flummoxed but gathered that he was probably on some sorta Christian 'born again' trip. 'Is this a Christian thing', I asked.

'Well, yes....very much', he said, stroking his white beard. 'I hadn't thought of it that way before.'

I was confused again but gave up trying to work it all out. I sat quietly, not thinking, looking out at the people in the street. Before long Dawn came over with our coffees. I noticed that she had a way of walking that was unlike anyone else's: she sauntered, with an undulating rhythm, almost as if she were underwater. It was the most elegant walk I had ever seen.

'Your coffees gentlemen', she smiled. 'Anything else I can do for you?'

Gavin shot me a conspiratorial glance, looked back at Dawn and said, 'yes, I wonder, could you tell me what you want Dawn?'

'Excuse me?' she replied, a little puzzled.

'What do you want – out of life?'

Dawn regained her composure quickly, 'well....I want what everyone wants I guess – to be happy.'

'And you are happy?'

'Yes, mostly. I still get upset of course - the news, rude know. But I like my job - I get to meet lots of people and make them good coffee, and I...', Dawn stopped, suddenly shy.

'Please go on my dear Dawn?' Gavin appealed with such a benevolent sincerity that I could see Dawn respond, bodily it seemed, as if she was now sure of something and could relax.

'Well....I like to makes me feel connected to something else you know, but it only happens when I am feeling something,,,,and of course music...I couldn't survive without music, dancing....'

Gavin was smiling as he gave Dawn free reign, she occasionally glancing at him to be reminded of that something which he had given her, and she also glancing at me, politely and ever so quizzically perhaps, at least I imagined it so.

'...also I am going to Spain later this year,,,I have nearly saved enough....I feel drawn there you know....I want to walk the Camino de Santiago....''

'Dawn paused, waiting for Gavin's reply, which came after a few moments...

'Spain is remarkable dear Dawn, and the Camino is truly magical....may I suggest the Primitivo? It is the oldest route, the original, and it winds through beautiful mountains and valleys...everyone does the French way, which is also beautiful, but crowded,,,besides the Primitivo is the wildest, one can walk all day without seeing another person sometimes.'
'You've walked the Camino?' Helena chirped, excited like a little girl. I was conscious of staring at her quite hopelessly.

'Yes more than once my dear....its the biggest pub crawl I ever did!' And with that he leant back and gave a hearty a laugh. Me?- I was enjoying his tale also, so much that I couldn't help picturing myself walking this Camino thing with Dawn by my side (reprehensible sentimentality!)....'Stop that you big wuss!', I thought to myself, and concentrated once more on what Gavin was saying.

'.... I have been around for many years my dear, and I have seen many places and many wonders. This world, you know, is full of marvels.' The old man paused briefly, shot me a smiling glance and continued, smiling broadly, revealing his white, even teeth. 'You know, people will always surprise you if you give them the chance.' And with this he lent back and laughed a deep resonant laugh as I had never heard. It was as if the very earth itself were laughing.

The charm of the old man was palpable I had to admit. It was hard to believe that this was the same person I had met this morning. It made me think about prejudice, and about that nebulous entity that seemed to have decided my life on my behalf - they seemed related somehow. I got no further with my ruminations however because my new pal Gavin was asking me a question:

'So you see how the girl was alive, did you see?' he said, pointing with his eyes at Dawn as she walked back to the counter.

'Well I think I know what you mean', I replied tentatively. 'I noticed her walk was beautiful and like nothing I'd seen before.'

'Yes! When one is alive they become unique, for life expresses uniquely always. When one is not yet fully alive, well they look and behave like everyone else.'

'A bit like fashion and style', I said, feeling more confident.

'Yes. That is a good analogy. Style is unique to the individual; fashion is adopted. Well Adam, I must say you are surprising me.'

And I was surprising myself. Not only did I feel some sort of thrill in this strange dialectical journey I was having with a weird geezer I didn't know from Adam (ahem), I was also feeling a definite affection for him, and for Dawn. It was like I was seeing things for the first time. Even the objects in the cafe seemed brighter and sharper. It was like everything were suddenly more real.

I finished my coffee and offered the old man twenty dollars which he politely refused. Instead he reached into his pocket and brought out a stone, just like the one he wore round his neck. He thrust it into my palm.

'Hold on to it', he said. 'It will help'.

'Help with what?' I asked.

'With what you want', he said.

I couldn't help myself: 'How does it help? - I mean how can a stone help me with what I want?''

'These stones came to Earth a long time ago', he began. 'When things that are not of the Earth reach Earth they are given power - the Earth gives them power. These stones are different to anything on the Earth, and therefore they have different properties to anything that is from the Earth. These stones amplify the effects of the creative unconscious Adam. That force within you which brings forth, which gives birth.'

Perhaps because the day had been so weird already this new information didn't seem all that far-fetched. Indeed I actually felt like I was finally beginning to get my head around all this stuff. I was about to say something when the old boy spoke up again:

'Well that's what the guy in the crystal shop said to me anyway. Me? - I like the colours, just like Brisbane Roar!' With this he bellowed laughter again like some feral Falstaff, necked what remained of his coffee and departed. He was gone before I could think to ask him if I could see him again. Instead I got up and sat where he had been sitting (for a better view) and ordered another coffee from Dawn, noticing for the first time the delicate silver identity bracelet that adorned her slender wrist. While I waited I tossed the stone he gave me from hand to hand, thinking about what he had said,,,I momentarily considered asking Dawn to a Roar game but it seemed like a long shot (pardon the pun) and a bit sudden to say the least. Time enough for all that I thought.....

That night I did a bit of detective work and tracked down my old friend Gav. He was in a homeless shelter in Melbourne. I suggested he come live with me as I had a spare room. He liked the idea too.

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