A Conversation

One day as I was walking home from school, I caught a glimpse of a man sitting on the pavement with a beautiful German Shephard lying next to him. He was filthy! He was dressed in a old frayed coat that looked like it was ten sizes too big for him, while his jeans and shoes looked like they were held together by a mixture of luck, love, holes and dirt. Yet despite all this he sat with all the grace and poise of a king – upright and pround. Men and women walked past and none chose to spare him a glance. Some were power dressers in suits and the like while others were dressed casually. I could’nt believe that I was the only person paying attention to this vision on the sidewalk. It was almost as if I were looking at a wonder that was invisible to all others.

I developed what seemed to be a momentary fascination with this man and as such I had to go and introduce myself. Almost as if he had seen me coming all along he extended his hand and in a deep voice invited me to sit beside him. As I sat down the dog stared at me before resting its head on its paw. We quickly disposed of the pleasantaries – greetings, the weather etc. I began to assault him with questions about who he was and why he was sitting there. He told me his name was Michael (I never learned his last name) and that the dog’s name was Gabriel. He told me he chose Gabriel because he wanted to think of himself and his dog as angels watching over people as they went past. He also told me that he was sitting there because he liked the spot!

I tentatively asked him where he lived and he replied by telling me that he lived everywhere. Upon seeing the confusion on my face he explained that he felt he did’nt need a house to live in and to call his home but rather he felt that everywhere was his home. He put his arm around me and pointed to a man walking down the street. The man was dressed in a suit with a picture perfect haircut and a long, sweeping stride. Michael told me that he once was like that man, looking down on everyone and walking in his suit as though it made it him the supreme ruler of everything. He told me he had been quite a successful businessman in his younger days and that he used to live in a big house with a big car and a big boat. However, he said he realised one day that everything he had did’nt matter to him anymore so over the years he sold his business, the house, the cars, and the boat and chose to live on the street instead. I thought of him at the time as an almost downsized, modern day version of Howard Hughes!

As he was talking I noticed that he had a fantastic view from the stretch of pavement we were sitting on. Opposite from us was a large public park that was gleaming in the setting sun. I knew the park quite well and I watched some young children running around on the lush green grass, laughing and playing. Michael noticed me watching them, stopped talking and silently smiled. He asked me if the next question I was going to ask him was if he missed all of his material possessions. Truthfully it was not my next question but I was intrigued so I replied ‘yes’ nonetheless. His smile vanished and he turned to me quite serious and said:

“I have had everything and at the same time it was absolutely nothing. While they (pointing at the people passing), like me previously, believe they have everything they will ever need, I realise now that by having nothing I have more than they will ever have.”

I asked him what he meant by ‘everything’ and he pointed to himself, then to Gabriel and finally to the park before responding:

“This is everything.”

We sat in silence for a while before he finally told me to head off home because it was getting late. The sun was hanging very low over the park and night was well on its way. I thanked him and by some strange spur of passion I embraced him before standing up and walking away. As i neared the end of the steet I looked back and saw him still sitting next to his dog, eyes fixed on the park, I suppose looking at his ‘everything.’

A Conversation


Joined September 2009

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