This must be what a possum feels like when it’s discovered. You just stand still and hope no one notices. I stood there on the sidewalk and let life flow around me. No one cared, no one stopped to ask if I was OK. I could have stood there for hours and marked the passage of time as my shadow slowly crept across the sidewalk – from curb to apartment trash can.
I watched as ants foraged for food across the expanse of my big shadow head. I wondered if they noticed of if they were as oblivious to my presence as the humans. Even the smart phone, twitter obsessed freshman at NYU had their sonar up and avoided walking into me. I was for all intents and purposes invisible to everyone.
I had come from somewhere. Des Moines for a start, and further back St. Vincent DePaul grammar school. I could remember those places as if it were only this morning that I was there. Before that my mother’s womb but it was her perfume and tender embrace that I really remember. It was the where of 15 minutes ago I couldn’t remember. I was terrified to turn around and look. Behind me was the unknown and it was terrifying. Ahead was a different unknown. I knew trees, and crosswalks and cars. It was the specifics of these things that eluded me.
I sat down at a little sidewalk café and ordered a coffee. I pulled out everything in all my pockets. I had keys yet no car key, matches, 2 sticks of gum, 87 cents and a wallet from my back pocket. It was about 3 inches thick with post-it notes, receipts and god knows what sticking out of every fold. The sum of my life, as I knew it was wrapped up in these objects. Did I smoke? Did I know how to drive? Do I like Wintergreen more than Spearmint? The wallet said the most. I can’t let go. Everything is important to the point that everything gets diluted in the grand scheme of things. Digging into the wallet was like an archaeologist dig. The waitress arrived with my coffee and as I was distracted by her, a guy wearing a jogging outfit reached over and grabbed my wallet off the table and was gone. I was a victim. I shouted, leapt over the table in pursuit. It was all instinctual at this point. I ran. I ran with intent, with purpose and determination. Something I didn’t have an hour ago. I now had something else that belonged to me – Determination.
I could see the jogger ahead of me by about a city block. He had to fight the crowd, but for me, the crowd parted and let me run after the guy. I was in better shape than I realized because I was running almost as fast as the jogger. I had strength. A squad car heading in the wrong direction, squealed to a stop and made a 3 point turn and then caught up to me. “The bastard took my wallet,’ I shouted and pointed to the jogger. After I described him, the squad car sped up to intercept the jogger. I had support. I watched the squad cut off the joggers path and the two cops tackled him and were in the process of handcuffing the jogger when I arrived. I had satisfaction.
I stood over the scene, panting, my shadow head marking a minute or symphony. Passersby were looking at me and smiling knowing that justice has been done. Everyone but the jogger spoke to me with their eyes. I had justice. Mostly I realized that I didn’t have a collection of things, I had clues to the whole. I had community.