An evidently homeless man with the miseries of existence etched onto his face sits on the gum-packed pavement, coddling and feeding seven averagely extraordinary pidgeons in a major-ish city. Suddenly his blistered, calloused and crusted form jerks from its trance with the first last pangs of life, sending his fitful denizens winging away to rest on curbs, eaves and railings surrounding the square.
Animated by the geyser blast of impending coincidence, he grabs the pedestrian closest at hand by the scruff of the forearm, pulls her closer and foretells, ‘You. It’s you. You’re you. It must be you. You must be her. Her. You’re her. I’ve been searching for her all my life, for you. You are my life. Please, please. You’re my only hope. Tell me what I’m here for, for what reason I must find you, what ultimate destiny is yours and not mine! Tell me what happens after this! What ill-reward comes to me for accepting a life of misery on a child’s hunch and whim. What suffering will find me in the future?!’
The passerby-by, severely shaken by the penetrating pronounal onslought, stares transfixed into the burning eyes of this lunatic, his wizened features boring a deep imprint onto her presence in that moment. Speechless, her consciousness, already contracted to a point of light only as wide as the distance between the tramp’s outer eyelashes, soon begins to relax. One by one, the floodlights clap on around them, illuminating an omnicoloured field of view so vast it seems to encompass all peripheries and stretch around behind to collect and recycle the ricocheting light into the wormhole extending from the back of her head.
The tramp releases his iron grip, and the walker recoils gently, slowly, in an alien state of calm. Unable to adequately express her feelings, she turns and walks away. The man’s eyes lose vigour quickly. His focus dips into decline. Worldwearily he slumps back against his cotch of rag-filled plastic bags and starts goading the pidgeons once again.
Two gruff onlookers resting their weary haunches on a nearby bench begin to speculate.
‘Back at it again, hahaha.’
‘Mate, he never stopped, did he?’
‘Idunno, maybe he takes a day off now and again. I mean, he lets so many people walk past and doesn’t even look at them. He could be working much harder to be honest.’
‘Pff, how do you think he selects his next target?’
‘Aint got a clue mate. He’s only got me one time.’
‘Yeah, me too.’
‘I told him to get the fuck back to the matrix with that “you’re the one” shit.’
‘You ever heard of him goin’ for the same person twice?’
‘Nah, he never does. But then when Travis Argyle feels left out ‘cos he’s never had the famous Northbourntone bumming even after living here his whole life and spends 20 minutes walkin’ up and down in front of the bastard one day, he can’t even be bothered to lift his head and look at him. Travis, the silly tosser, ended up shouting in his face and aiming a boot at one of his pidgeons, and the old coot still didn’t look up at him, didn’t even flinch.’
‘Pfhsh, sounds like Travis. Idunno though, he seems pretty harmless, doesn’t seem to have any gypo curses or savage tendencies up that coat. And I mean, he’s basically a legend at this point, famous like you said. We should hope he sticks around. He put us on the map, mate! Haha. I’m pretty sure my grandad said he’d been grabbed and spat on by the guy when he was just a twenty-something, and apparantly he was still an old geez back then. He’s gotta be an actual wizard or a vampire or something. And how does he remember who he’s gone for and who he hasn’t? The dude’s supernatural.’
‘Ha, yeah, I can believe he’s always been that old, but I’m not sure we should want him around, y’know? I’ve heard myths and legends, man, myths and legends.’
‘Like about how after he grabs you your life falls apart, how everyone says that some terrible shit happened to them around the time they had their tramping, and they didn’t know why or how, but they knew that it was something to do with him – some weird ringing in their ears and a feeling like the curtains just got pulled on their cutesy little dreams. They felt it when he touched them and again when they got the bad news.’
‘Really? I heard different. I know a guy who said that after he got grabbed his life took off. He said that day he met the girl of his dreams, and got to smash on the first date. A week later he found out he was getting the biggest opportunity of his career. Man was a cage fighter, got this huge bout with a big international contender – total coincidence, last minute dropout, a week to prepare, some real Cindarella Man shit – and not only did he perfect his style during training that week, he wrecked the guy in ten seconds when it actually came about – hard knockout – and got slung up to the top of the league, where he’s stayed since.’
‘Huh, never heard that one. To be fair though, I guess nothing bad ever happened to me. Actually, no, you’re right, that was right around the same time I decided to buy my shares, just before they exploded and set me up for business. Always said that was all my life’s luck used up in one go. Maybe I should chuck the old fucker a quid, eh, repay some of that good karma. Ha, shit, I never thought about that before.’
‘It’s definitely weird, bro. Maybe he’s actually God, like in that movie, and he decides what happens to you based on how good a person you are.’
‘Haha, well I must be some sort of fuckin saint then, ahahaha.’
‘H’yea, for sure mate. I wonder what I’ll get.’
‘Whad’ya mean? You said he got you, right?’
‘Yeah, like last week. I was pretty over the moon about it to be honest, felt like he was rejecting me up ’til then.’
‘So wait, you haven’t had your thing yet?’
‘Nah, man, I’m excited though.’
‘I’d stay at home if I were you, mate.’
‘Naaah, don’t stress. I’ll be fine. Karma’s my bitch.’
The tramp’s own fate is not often wondered about by the people surrounding him. Even those on whom he has left his grim mark soon switch their attention from his desperate plea back to their own daily struggles, never knowing if the down-and-out’s prophecy decries a happy or tragic fate until it crashes down upon their heads. The visionary awareness with which they are explosively endowed for a brief flash of time fades out into background radiation, and they forget. He never forgets.
Nobody attempts to answer his impossible question. They feel on a primal level that they can’t, that they shouldn’t, that to try to engage his inconceivable pain would be in some obscure way to lie to him, to offer false comfort to a life determined to tremble and shudder as it clings to, more than rides, the rapids surging toward the future. Some questions simply are not meant to be answered, some lives not meant to be lived literally, some people’s existences, sad though it is, never meant to be complete, but rather to make possible the completion of others’.
Written – Jan 2018 – Present
Published – February 2019
Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash