It was such an ordinary street, or at least, it had been an ordinary street with tall wooden telephone poles and sidewalk cracks and several forgotten soda cans. It had been all that before the man had showed up. And to the average person who squinted down the long street with only a momentary glance, it still was an ordinary street. Every few minutes the tri-color signals would change, indicating who should come, those who should stop and the others that needed to slow down. When the red would change to a circle of bright glazing green, cars would rush in a singular, eager line towards the next signal.
It was a city street, not totally busy, but far from desolate. The day was clear, and a muted winter sun hung in the sky, as strong as it could be. Black and white pigeons ate debris from the gutter and several individualistic seagulls roamed the sky in search of food.
The man arrived a little before noon, wandering in from the park that stood at the city’s edge, materializing from the shadows between the pine trees. He had a clean face and pale olive skin. His hair was cropped short, but greasily clung together in thin chunks. There were gray hairs close to his temples, lingering like an omen of impending death. His eyes were mostly green, and had small slivers of bright brown embedded in their layers, but no one ever came close enough to see that, so no one ever noticed.
The man appeared on the street, close to noon. He sat on the dirty cement corner of Folsom and Howard, sitting cross-legged against the yellow stucco building that had been on the corner for almost forty years. The man sat. He looked around the small space around him and gathered some of the discarded refuse close to his shoes. He brought it close, building a sort of nest by his legs and shoes. He added a few rocks to the pile, a few crumpled leaves from the ginko tree close by, a tiny piece of paper that came from a torn-out newspaper advertisement.
When he had gathered all the little bits around him, he sat there and watched the clouds move across the sky. From time to time, he turned his attention to the items around him, looking one by one at the gray rock, the weathered leaf, the pebble of gravel, the sticky soda can. He would wash them all with his gaze and in turn, they all began to vibrate under his stare. When each item had turned to a new frequency, he placed them around his legs in a more careful small circle. With a slow, steady hand, he placed each thing around him in intervals. Again he took his time, looking at the clouds and beyond to the blue sky, then back at all the shining things surrounding him.
When the sun had moved so that it was no longer overhead, he began to blur his eyes slightly. The shapes not only bounced with new life, but they lost the colors and forms of their previous identities. What had once been a leaf was now a jagged bit of pale brown. What had been the advertisement in a newspaper lost all intellectual meaning and the letters turned into pure lines without concept.
He looked at the items, each one simultaneously, then held out his hand and held it several inches over each item, letting it linger, letting it vibrate and feeling the silver thread that connected hand to form.
When the time was right, he moved on to the next shape, connecting himself irrevocably with its life.
“What had once been, what now is.”
He began to say the words in his head, over and over, then he began to whisper them, then on his lips, the syllables grew louder and louder until they were a low chant. The back of his throat rumbled and his eyes wobbled slightly in their sockets and then rolled back to his brain.
The man didn’t take any notice of the coffee shop across the street. He smelled the roasting beans, but never looked into the plate glass window, never seeing the young woman with a red rose nestled above her left ear. She had been there for hours, sipping slowly on her tea, and then when her cup was dry, she just sat there still, watching the man on the corner.
When the sun was hovering low in the sky, the chant slowly ceased, once again filling only his mind, then stopping altogether. With one quick brush of his hand, he scattered the items onto the sidewalk. The pale brown circle once again became a rock, the ephemeral message became a newspaper clipping and the man walked back into the shadows between the city trees.