July 3, 2008


The highway overpass rose high above me as I stood behind the warehouse below. I couldn’t see the traffic up there but the noise washed over me in waves as the stoplights created crests and valleys in the flow of vehicles during noon rush hour.
My lunch break was short… so I grabbed a couple of the junked and broken pallets by the dumpster and trudged toward the overpass.

My friend fed the wooden refuse into his fire while I admired his spacious home. The floor rose gradually to meet the majestic ceiling, nearly 40 feet above us… creating levels of different environment. The wide highway roof was open on both sides… but its expanse was great. Even the most severe weather still left spots of shelter among the supports. The large flat area at the bottom fell into a drainage creek… which spawned the overpass in the first place. The runoff was always either fresh water or no water at all.

“Folks told me I could be whatever I wanted to be…” he said as he prodded the hot coals. He looked at me and smiled with his whole face… “but it took me a while to get here.” I sat down on the plastic crate I had brought him previously. He sat back on its twin and continued…
“When someone told me that… I didn’t understand they meant I could be anyone they would have me be. I was told I could be someone who has enough money. So, I got enough money… and they said I should have more.”
He looked at me curiously and asked… “Why should I want more than enough?”

“I was told I should have a companion… but to have a companion you must be one. You can’t just be a companion… you must be the companion… measured by a partner’s image.” His voice trailed and I could see him retreating into his private world. I spoke to bring him back…
“What about the danger?” I asked, “Your protection is mostly from the weather.”

“The danger is not mine…” he mumbled. He gathered himself and took a breath. “If I don’t feed a conflict, it doesn’t belong here. If someone has a conflict, they brought it as a burden from somewhere else. It causes them to be unbalanced and shift their weight from one leg to the other… they are unstable in those moments. I stand firm and balanced on two legs… who do you think will topple quickest?”

I was concerned with his naivetĂ© as I looked around at his open and vulnerable lifestyle. “… but what if someone is bigger, or meaner, or a crazed drug addict, or…”
“Threat comes from fear,” he interrupted, “I am neither. I will only be fear if that is all they can see.”
“But what if they have a weapon?” I insisted.

He seemed to ignore me as he stirred the fire… then he looked straight at me. His normally warm friendly eyes pierced me with an icy stare. I had no doubt he was sincere when he said…
“I’m sure I can figure out how to use it.”

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