by Caroline Bruckner

homeless smHe had no name and no place to stay. They called him The Hood sometimes, after Robin Hood, because of the way he lived. Not that he ever stole anything. Nothing worth much, anyhow. If he ever had stuff, he gave it away. He wanted nothing. He had nothing. He was nothing. Of course to some, he was a hobo. To others, a failure. There were women to whom he had been a lover, an intense lover even, but that was long ago now. He had been a cabbie, a few years ago, but he kept messing up the addresses and talked too much to the guests, and anyway the work had gotten him down more than this life on the streets had ever depressed him. He had no friends, even though there were those who had tried to befriend him. He had no use for their badly hidden superiority or, even worse, their giddiness at their own kindness. He had no ambition, not that he wasn’t smart or talented; he was a deeply gifted person, in fact. He just saw no satisfaction in the pursuit of a career. His hair was dirty and tangled, although he carried an old wooden comb in the inner pocket of his ancient Gore-Tex jacket. He had bad skin and dry lips that came off in scales, summer and winter. He loved a drink as much as anybody, and kept a steady flow of alcohol running through his veins. He had never been in that place where they served hot soup and bread, which he was proud of. He had never had problems with the police. Had he been born in another time, in another place, maybe he would have been a shaman or some kind of monk, he thought. He had traveled the world, barefoot in many places. He had had that glow and urgency about him that young adventurous backpackers had back in the days when there were no mobile phones, and the best currency was a goofy smile. He had not found what he was looking for. Not up in the sunlit Peruvian mountains, dancing sacred dances. Not in the deserts of Morocco, praying up at the full, low moon. Not in Vietnam, nor in China, or in the shrines of Japan. He had spent six weeks on a cargo ship, cruising from Belgium to New York, and briefly thought he had felt something three weeks into the Atlantic Ocean. In the middle of a storm, there had been a second of quiet. A second that lasted an eternity, that’s how intense it was. That’s how silent it got between the massive attacks of the massive waves. Just try to imagine it. A world of complete darkness and deafening, ear-splitting thunder. An ocean so big, a ship so small, thrown like chewing gum in the mouth of an angry God. As one of the big ones hit the side of the ship, everything turned diagonally, and he was pushed by something that felt like a gigantic invisible hand. Into a wall he was pushed, and he was held there by the gigantic invisible hand; he was pushed, pushed, pushed until there was no more air in his lungs, until he couldn’t breathe, until he was flat as a fucking piece of paper. He was held there a second longer than the actual laws of gravity permitted; he was held there by a force so unbelievable that everything seemed to make sense. For that one eternal second, all was clear. “I hear you,” he had thought, and he had laughed. A hearty, free, clear laughter.

Circumstances had forced him to cut his world travels short, and for some reason he had never found it in him to get away again. There had been a girl, for a while. Then there had been a dog for a few years. He stopped even chanting the words at some point. The words he had chanted for as long as he could remember.

“God, where are you? God, show yourself to me.”

He did not know that there were people who cried for him. If he would have known, it would not have moved him. He did not know there were people who saw in him the sacred beauty of a true seeker. Lost, maybe. Lonely, for sure. Holy, nevertheless. He did not know there were people who longed to reach out and touch him, to run a finger along his cheek. Not because they wanted to offer solace, but because they wanted to be comforted by him. In spite of his greasy hair. Not caring about his unwashed, disgusting jeans. Bothered not by the smell of his sweaty body or slightly alcoholic breath. He would never know about that woman who saw him in church one Sunday morning, that one time he ever went in, the first time in over thirty years. He was more drunk than usual, not that it explained why he would suddenly enter a place he had avoided for a lifetime. He was tired, the first frost had come suddenly, and he had slept accordingly. It had rained, and he had been crossing the main square in front of the cathedral just as the church bells rang out. He did not see her turning to watch him as he sang. He sang out of embarrassment more than anything else, wanting to melt in, when finally he realized where he was, not realizing how deep his voice was. Like thunder or ocean waves. He would never know that where the other people saw only a disturbance and a mess, she saw God.


Category: Fiction, Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing