Destination Boulevard
Part Two - Check Your Shadow at the Door

He rests for a moment beside the fountain at the park's center. Although its flow of water is shut down during his visits, he is always steadied by its sheer beauty...the perfect symmetry and inevitable erosions. A great circle from which life springs and death comes to pay a final visit. This is the heart of this great space -- pumping energy into the arteries that lead from its base...a collection of paths where lovers walk in ecstatic oneness, where mothers push strollers and gaze into their infant's overwhelmed eyes, where old men gather to share stories and children run with reckless abandon. All congregating at this wonderful fountain. To reflect and smile and surrender to its peace.

This is the point from which his work commences.

As he is about to rise a light rain begins to fall. He pauses and listens as the gentle shower brushes against the trees lofty shelter and makes its way to the ground, striking the grass and crashing into pavement. Each sound distinct...joining to create a symphony of elegance. A muted brass horn sings in his mind and he utters a sad laugh at the empty seats for this grand performance...wondering about all the sleeping bodies hidden behind darkened glass. Resting for the busy day ahead. And, as he often finds himself realizing, he is happy to no longer be among them.

The rain will not deter his work but he is hopeful that it might hinder the arrival of the first shift. He never has enough time to complete his tasks but he does what he can. Starting now as he resolves to finally rise. He begins by taking inventory of the coins resting at the bottom of the fountain. With the water gone, and only an incidental amount accumulated from the rain, his job is easier than it might be otherwise. He notes each location and denomination. Another set of entries in a daily log of tossed wishes. The coins will all be gone in a few hours and it is up to him to make sure some evidence of their existence remains. He knows how easy a wish can be washed away by the forces of the day. So he keeps his record. If not in service of the person who tossed the coin, then in honor of the intention.

A person's hope might easily be crushed, but hope itself must find a way to live on.

From the fountain he moves outward in a spiral that would ideally cover the entire park, but time and resources limit him to those areas deemed most necessary. He pauses beside benches to inventory painted initials, joined for eternity...brave declarations of undying love which will shortly be taken away by liquid chemicals and muscled arms. He fills his ledger with slogans and mysterious symbols. Representations of belief and pride and conviction. Each a glimpse of yearning and freedom. Undeniable manifestations of deeply felt joy.

He passes by a monument to the brave young soldiers who embarked from the doorsteps of this neighborhood long ago to fight on a distant shore. A symbolic angel reaching with one hand into the endless sky and holding a loaf of bread with the other. The inscription has long since been filed away...another statement of integrity and resolve dropped into the growing abyss. At the angel's slender feet someone has left a wreath of flowers, which will soon be duly taken away. Perhaps a forgotten Veteran wounded in one of the war's countless battles. Or a loved one still waiting for a knock at the door and an embrace that would last a lifetime. He takes down every detail of every petal and pays particular attention to their slight imperfections.

Heaven and Hell have reserved their own worlds. And their reflections must surely be reserved a space in ours.

His work continues. For many hours. Tedious. Exacting. Scribbling furiously in spite of the forces of time. A crimson ribbon tied to a metal gate. The murky outline of a hopscotch game. Candy and cigarette and other wrappers. Empty bottles. A tiny sock stuck in some briers. A dirt black overcoat hanging in the limbs of a Sycamore Tree.

His work continues... Until he arrives on the park's outer edges. The sun is beginning to come up. And, as usual, he finds himself in a corner of the park reserved for purposes that do not belong to him...a section of the universe he'll never enter, although he is allowed to hang about and observe.

This is where the abandoned lives take refuge. The unclaimed souls turned away from your front steps. You secure yourself from them. Hiding behind thin walls and locked doors and sliding glass -- sequestered in corner rooms, paying bills and dreading the future. Busying yourself with 'important' matters that have nothing to do with anything. But no matter how safe you think you are, they have a way of showing up. Waiting inside an upstairs closet. Hanging around the edge of a bedroom mirror. Half-asleep among some boxes in the basement. Paying a visit. Seeing how the other half lives.

There is no escape from these uninvited guests. Unmistakable in their characteristics. Recognized immediately in a moment of breathless terror. The battered profile of a failed dream. The limping outcast of forsaken opportunity. The hollow eyes of an unredeemed mistake. The bent frame of disappointment. The bone-thin shadow of better intentions. They mean no harm. But that doesn't mean you'll walk away from these encounters unscathed...the scars just exist in places not readily seen by the casual eye.

They're a funny bunch. In fact, he often finds himself chuckling at their antics. They seem to enjoy huddling in this desolate area of the park. Milling about. Mumbling to themselves -- giving the appearance of a lively discussion at hand. But they never directly address one another. They wouldn't know what to say. Or where to begin. Or how to listen. Consumed by their own non-existence. They bump into things quite a bit, seemingly unaware of where they are going -- or perhaps fully aware that they are going nowhere.

His work ends here. Inspired by your resolve to deny their appearance, he extends no effort to report their words or movements. Nor does he attempt to engage them. Why should he? To him, they are the same as anyone else. They just have a different set of reasons for keeping their distance. Still, he does feel a sense of solace from their daily presence. After all, they do have many things in common.

As he is about to exit the park, he passes a crumpled sheet of paper lying beside the walkway. He leans down to pick it up. The paper is filled with a collage of images -- some are photographs, others created by hand. Rocket ships. People flying kites. Trees. Birds. Stars. Clouds. Grass. Sports cars. In the bottom corner is a crudely drawn image of a child. He assumes its the same child who created this work but has no basis for this assumption...other than experience. The child is standing alone. Tears run down each cheek. He folds the piece of paper and places it in his back pocket -- some bits of history must not simply be registered, they must be kept close at hand.

. . .

He thinks of the child's creation as he stands before the drawing in the storefront window. Unlike the paper in his pocket, this page is filled with only one image and a few words. And in contrast to the crude depictions on that paper, the image on this page is quite realistic. Every detail of the face has been rendered with great care and considerable distinction. One would readily recognize this person if they were to come across his path -- a realization he must now come to terms with...standing speechless before this unwelcome visitor. The person he once was.

~ ~ ~

Read Part Three

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