-The power of the World always works in circles,
and everything tries to be round....
The Sky is round,
and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball,
and so are the stars.
The wind, in its greatest power, whirls.
Birds make their nest in circles for theirs is
the same religion as ours....
Even the seasons form
a great circle in their changing,
and always come back
again to where they were.
The life of a man is a circle
from childhood to childhood,
and so it is in everything
where power moves.
Black Elk - Sioux Holy Man
Walking the Circle
T. W. Black
T. W. Black
A man is born gentle and weak.
At his death he is hard and stiff.
Green plants are tender and filled with sap.
At their death they are withered and dry.
Therefore the stiff and unbending is the disciple of death.
The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life.
Thus an army without flexibility never wins a battle.
A tree that is unbending is easily broken.
The hard and strong will fall.
The soft and weak will overcome.
Tao Te Ching
Two quarters, a few pennies and a dime sat beneath three inches of urine in the bus station urinal. Afraid to flush and risk losing them, Nigel leaned over and stared into the grin of the broken porcelain grate and despised himself for wanting to cry. Anger seemed a more reasonable emotion. It kept you strong when feeling weak. It kept you warm when shitty nights like this threatened to freeze you to death. It gave you the ability to overpower a bad day. It’s not like reaching through urine in a public toilet for sixty three cents was a bad thing!
Walking down Main Street in this city was not unlike the many other cities Nigel had spent time in. You could walk from the Veteran’s Statue to the end of Main Street in eleven minutes. The city was like a pimple on an otherwise unblemished face. It just sprung up out of nowhere. There were multi storied buildings with businesses and law offices, clothing, food, and tobacco shops with a City Hall wedged in. Looked like downtown Manhattan had shrunk and transported itself through the Star Trek “Beam me up, Scotty,” portal. There were the usual kids driving up and down the street preening and showing off their cars or new clothes or the girls waving their big boobs at the boys and to one another. There were the usual assortment of cultural clashes wandering down the street as well. Cambodians or Vietnamese. Indians or Pakistanis, with many unidentifiable people as well. “We’re all Americans with a capitol A, eh?” he thought to himself.
“Twelve minutes, twenty seconds!” Nigel observed. “I must be getting tired”. He had found the perfect place to sleep. The overpass near the railway was warm due to its close proximity to the row of loading docks and warehouses. It was noisy with the constant stream of traffic overhead and the loading and unloading of railroad cars and trucks. Nigel had perfected closing his mind to the constant drone of everyday life. It was his own little paradise of noise, exhaust and privacy.
The bridge overpass was less than twenty or twenty five years old. In other cities Nigel had been able to tuck himself neatly under the end spans and between the steel girders that ran to the support columns. Here there was no such luxury and a little ingenuity was required to turn this space into a home. He had three working tie downs he rescued from a dumpster behind the furniture warehouse. He pulled a canvas painter’s cover- all from the dumpster at Marvin’s Paint & More store. With the canvas running from the five foot girders that ran every six feet between the end of the bridge to the support columns Nigel managed to make a six foot hammock. The length of the tie downs were used to their maximum so the hammock showed no sign of a dip or a sag. Unless you were standing directly under the hammock, you would not notice it hanging silently above. It was a perfect blend with the concrete and steel. With a few packing blankets that Nigel had managed to borrow when some workers went for a smoke, he could sleep through the night undisturbed.
Sleep was the one place that he could not control his thoughts, regrets and memories of the past that helped lead him towards his current state of homelessness. The night’s dreams were his haunting and it was a wonder that Nigel sought sleep at all. Although his dreams caused his mind distress every night, he seemed to forget them when the day came to a close and it was time once again time to enter the realm of sleep and brings its uninvited guests.
She would always wake him when he was in the deepest stages of sleep.
“Push over, God dammit”, she snapped.
He could feel the anger well up and tighten his jaw and chest as he obediently pushed over. “Sometimes,” he thought to himself, “I could just kill her!”
The morning came with the rising sun hanging low and shining in and under his private space. It signaled the time to get up as the sun would only warm his spot for a few minutes. It was September 10th. The days were getting shorter and the trees gave evidence that not all change is bad. There were the bright reds of the swamp Maples and the yellows and orange of Autumn were already beginning to appear on the trees that outlined the city suburbs. Some dogs could be heard barking over the constant drone of the traffic running overhead. The granite blocks that once lined the upgrade on the underside of the highway had long been picked clean, except for a few near the top. With the strategic placement of a few blocks he had easy access to his home.
“Making plans for Nigel,” he snickered as he began to formulate his plans for the day. On this morning, it took eleven minutes and three seconds to walk the length of Main Street to the Veteran’s Statue. Here he turned up the side street to Joseph’s House where the well meaning Christians passed out breakfast to the many, the downtrodden, the unfed. With a plate of scrambled eggs and oatmeal and government peanut butter on toast, Nigel felt ready to seize the day. Considering that he had started every day like this since arriving here in early April, seizing the day perhaps only meant getting through the day and arriving at Joseph’s for another round of boxed eggs with their side car of oatmeal one more morning.
The city had an estimated 3,000 homeless. It was difficult to tell how many found themselves living on the streets or in shelters because of mental illness or because of alcohol and drug addictions. Some cities were a draw to the abused and drug addicted kids while some seemed to attract the older group of State Hospital releases and alcoholics. But one thing was certain, those that held jobs and had homes sought to avoid the homeless whenever possible.. There were those brave souls who made a living out of panhandling and those that forced themselves upon the windshields of drivers trapped by the cities many intersections. A few greasy smears across the windshield and the drivers shelled out a buck just to be rid of them. Some areas attracted those that were willing to sell themselves just to buy their drug of choice and make it on to the next day.
It wasn’t that way with Nigel. He didn’t see himself as having anything in common with the homeless and vagrants that wandered the streets. He walked the outskirts of the city and explored little patches of woods where he could enjoy the sounds of birds. He would nestle himself up under a tree off the beaten path and read what ever he could find. Nigel explored with the curiosity of Darwin and sought his own origin in every rock and interesting find of nature that he could fit into the deep pockets of his woolen coat.
“Thirteen minutes,” he breathed aloud. “I must be getting old. Seems like it takes longer to get home every day.” He turned up the pathway and slid through the fence to the overpass. He emptied his coat pockets and placed the day’s find into his cubbie. A pretty rock, a magazine and some day olds from the dumpster behind the donut shop. He settled in to sleep knowing that breakfast was only eleven hours away. With his mind focused on tomorrow’s breakfast he ignored that last night's dreams were only a short distance in time away.
He heard her come in and rustle about the kitchen. He glanced at the clock and saw it was thirty three minutes past one and rolled over onto his stomach. She wouldn’t allow him to sleep with pajamas on. He slid a little closer to his side of the bed. She entered the bedroom and Nigel breathed as if he was in very deep state of slumber.
“Nigel, my baby.” she whispered into his ear. “You’re my little love! You know that don’t you?”
She ran her hand through his hair and continued down his back.
Nigel swallowed hard.
“Wake up baby. Turn over.”
She grabbed his shoulder and turned him towards her. She brushed his hair from off his forehead and began to slowly kiss him. First the forehead, then the cheek. Her hand slid down under the sheets and began to rub against him. She was kissing him hard, full on the lips and when she deemed him ready, she climbed on top. Nigel tried not to look up into her face and looked at the clock. He closed his eyes and sought release in the hopes that, she would be satisfied. She rode him hard and threw her head back with a moan and he felt himself arch his back into her, giving his own muffled moan.
“There, baby. Don’t we both feel better?”
With the smell of cigarettes and alcohol in her hair and on her breath, she kissed him one last time and rolled over to fall fast asleep.
Nigel watched the reflection of car lights cast upon the ceiling and then glanced at the clock. “One fifty five.” She was right. He did feel better. But Nigel knew that somehow this had to stop. How could sleeping with your sister ever be right. Anywhere.
The morning came and Nigel threw back his covers and his dreams and prepared for the walk to Joseph’s House. His one guaranteed meal of the day. He looked with disgust at the wet spot on his trousers between his legs.
“Making plans for Nigel,” he said aloud. Nigel then sat and cried.
Frank Hsu was a man that drew no particular attention from anyone. At five foot five with a weight of about 135 Lbs and short cropped black hair, he was nearly invisible. A quiet man that worked and paid his bills was a perfect blend into the busy city life. His building super could hardly remember what he looked like. Other than the neighbor in 4C with the heavy makeup and a perpetual cigarette in her mouth, nobody knew who lived in 4B.
He awoke at five thirty as he did every morning without the aid of an alarm clock. He placed his kettle on the boil and opened a small apothecary that held assorted bottles of roots, herbs and liquids. He cut a piece of root and placed it in a pestle along with herbs from two types of herb. He ground the trio into a powder and added it to his selection of tea leaves. Placing them in his teapot, he added the water and covered to steep. He withdrew three incense sticks and placed them upon an altar. He then took a small dish of water, some flowers and a small candle and placed them upon the altar as well. He poured his tea and returned to the altar and sat before it on a deep red pillow. The candle was placed and lit along with the incense and the flowers were arranged beside the stone dish of water. He sat and sipped his tea until he felt prepared to enter into his daily meditation.
With his meditation now complete, Frank slowly rose and relaxed his shoulders. He stood before a ten by twelve foot rug with an obvious circle worn into the outer portions of the rug. Like a big “O” perfectly pressed into the intricate spacing of colors and symbols. He began his third and the last portion of his morning ritual and began to walk the circle. First counterclockwise, and after several laps, clockwise. His hands moved as kites in the wind. His feet drew him along effortlessly, heel to toe, heel to toe. With the grace of rain on a mountain top, as it gathers depth and gains strength, and forms into a new mountain stream, Frank Hsu’s movement channeled the unseen, creating a force within him that only served to make him a part of all that is, the nameless, the Tao.
Nigel changed his pants and thought of how long a wait it would be before he could slip into Union Station and wash himself. Some days were difficult due to the many delays in the daily schedule. There were times he arrived believing that the station would be empty only to find the platform filled with nervous commuters waiting for their ride to work. Nigel felt the sun beginning to rise above the trees and warm his space under the bridge.
“Hey, asshole! Move that God Damned junket outta there!” yelled a big Swedish looking guy from beside a truck at the loading station. The strength of his voice startled Nigel and he looked to see who he was directing his anger at.
“Yeah! I don’t care if I’m late. I need to unload and be outta here! Move your ass and when I’m done you take all the time in the fricken world, for all I care,” he screamed at another delivery driver already in the process of having his truck unloaded.
Nigel sat back and watched as Frank Hsu appeared to try and reason with the ill tempered driver. Nigel couldn’t hear any more of the exchange but could see the smaller of the two men trying to talk. He could see from the Hsu’s gestures he was adamantly resolved to remain unloading his until he was finished.
Nigel felt himself flinch as the bigger man swung his fist and tried to express his full fury with one wide swing. Hsu stepped back with his hands at his sides and looked towards his opponent seemingly unfazed. Nigel walked down the bridge embankment to have a better view.
The big blond walked towards the direction of Hsu and swung once more, only to have Hsu roll back, toe to heel and out of the reach of the man’s enormous fists. Hsu then rolled forward, heel to toe and circled towards the blonde's left.
As the larger opponent looked to size up his challenge, Nigel saw the smaller man step forward and suddenly change his direction to the man’s right. He moved forward and tagged the Swede once in each ear and quickly stepped back. Stunned, the Swede lunged forward with a yell of anger and sought to grab his opponent to the ground, only to find his feet swept away. In the Swedes forward momentum he tumbled ungracefully to the ground. He rolled and crawled to face Hsu once more. Frank Hsu stepped forward and moved towards the other delivery driver. Nigel heard the crack all the way from where he stood and the blood began to gush from the Swedes nose. In the increasing light, Nigel saw that the smaller man was Asian.
Frank Hsu helped the man to the main office of the warehouse in search of first aid. He returned and picked up the Swedes manifest and tossed into the cab of his truck nearby. He then turned and looked at Nigel and walked a few paces closer.
“I see you!” the Asian spoke in a loud but constrained voice.
“I’m not hiding, if that’s what you think” returned a nervous Nigel.
“I see you!” he echoed. Hsu returned to his truck and found it ready. The Swede stood by all nicely bandaged waiting his turn.
In the days that followed, Nigel began to experience what all new car owners do. Up until you buy the car you hardly notice your make and style. After the purchase everywhere you look you see the same make and model of the car you just purchased. At least once a day, if not five to ten times a day, Nigel would spot the Asian in every corner of the city at all times of the day. After a full day of exploring places in the city most inhabitants were ignorant of, Nigel turned and began his walk home.
“Fifteen minutes, even,” he mused. “It has to be the cold,” he thought to himself and cut through the fence from the far end of the street. “I used to make this walk in just eleven minutes.”
“I see you!”
Nigel was startled and stopped in his tracks. His eyes adjusted and he saw the Asian standing below his home among the steel frame of the bridge.
“I see you,” repeated Nigel. “I didn’t tell anyone about what I saw. I don’t want any trouble.”
“I am not here to hurt you. I am here to thank you for what you did.”
“But I did, didn’t do nothing,” Nigel stuttered.
“I know you don’t remember me. It’s alright. I remember you. I see you. That in me, sees you!”
With that, the Asian turned and walked past Nigel to the private path through the fence and headed back down Main Street.