Happy Sif’s Day!
Grey Avatar – Part 1
I can speak from personal experience that if you are tired enough, you can sleep anywhere. In my case, I was sleeping on a park bench in the city’s main park. I slept here because the police had a tendency to patrol the roads where they could look into the park but rarely got out to deal with the homeless vagabonds like myself. Luckily it was also the middle of spring and the weather was arming up. I could get by with my jacket and trail boots. Didn’t like hats unless it was super cold.
Waking up, I realized I had slept Into mid-morning or so by the sun. It was chilly but not windy. A perfect day in some people’s minds. I sat up and checked all my things. Everything was present from my backpack to my trail boots. I was getting better at being vagabond and homeless.
How long had it been now – a year. That terrible day when my whole life had crumbled. They had pronounced her dead you see – my wife that is. I didn’t go back to work and then one day I just packed everything into my backpack and walked out. I haven’t been back. I have learned how little it takes to be and stay alive since that day.
If you see me on the street though, you would not think me homeless. I know ways to keep my hygiene up to snuff and keep my clothes in good repair. I pay attention to my hygiene and appearance. I even have a debit card and what little I earn goes into it. It’s enough to afford a gym membership to one of those national chains. So always a place to work out and shower is available to me and I use them. I have gotten in good shape (muscled and still standing tall despite my age), and daily showered, brush my teeth, and trim my beard. My beard is getting grey like my medium hair. Try to get a haircut once a couple months and then it is usually a buzz cut (minus the beard) so I can grow it a while before the next haircut.
It’s my eyes that tell you that I am different. If my wife were alive and you asked her, she would tell a tale of how she fell in love with my grey-blue eyes which she would describe as getting lost in the sea after a storm. It’s the one place you can look at my face and still see me as I was – hopeful, but sad. My fifty-five years weigh heavy, but I still stand straight as I can.
I wander. It’s what I do now. I don’t stay in a single place for more than a few weeks. Then I look up the next city that has a gym where I have a membership and move on to that one. I work a little and observe. I do a lot of watching people. Lovers, partners, workers, street vendors, police, and others. I see them all and for a short time watch their story unfold in front of me. Then I write what I see in my notebook. Once a notebook is full, I mail it to a friend to keep for me. She is the only one who knows where I am at all times and is sworn to silence. I don’t have a phone or address, so she can’t write back. But she promised to keep the notebooks until I return to get them.
Today I met a most interesting person. I would not be exaggerating if I were to say this person changed my life forever, but it is one of those tales that may require many entries to tell. I am not even sure of my own sanity at this point which I have heard means I am perfectly sane just perhaps have experienced a shock.
It started with meeting a fellow vagabond. Older than me and looking far more interesting. He looked like a wizard of sorts with his long beard and hair that was pure white. He was wearing a jacket and jeans so that through off the wizard vibes. But he had a long staff-like walking stick that was actually pretty cool with its steel banded ends. I looked a little opulent for him as the rest of him suggested wanderer,
He, interestingly enough, also had a cape with a hood that he kept over his head just enough to hide his eye. Yes, I said eye because where his left eye would be was an eyepatch of black fabric. Under the cape the bulge of a medium-sized backpack was apparent. He walked straight and tall which indicated for his age he must be still in great health and shape. But his face was otherwise lined with lines of concern and courage. If you get that you get that.
He approached me and I stiffened up naturally as I tend to do when I know someone wants to talk to me, but I don’t know who they are. I was intrigued by this man, but I could sense that he was not all he seemed to be on the surface. When he spoke, his voice was both wise and commanding.
“Leif Johanson, I have need of your assistance.”
“How do you know my name?”
“I know many things. Your name is simple enough to know”
I paused here checking my brain for any time I had revealed my true name to anyone. I don’t use it much except when needed for financial or legal matters, which are very few anymore.
“So what do you want with me, seeing you have gone through the trouble of finding out my name?”
“It was very little trouble actually, let’s just say a bird told me.”
It was then I noticed the two ravens. One was sitting on one of the branches near our conversation. For the life of me, I didn’t hear it fly to that spot even though I had been on this bench all morning. The other was further away sitting on a garbage can. Suddenly I felt more watched than ever. An uncomfortable feeling for a people watcher and a wanderer who likes to fly under the radar.
The stranger chuckled at his statement and I was now more uncomfortable.
“So what do you want with me?”
“Well, let’s not talk here. I would rather we talk over coffee. That coffee shop behind us will do. You can hear me out and I will buy you whatever drink you like and given the chill this morning we will both know the simple pleasure of a warm place, a warm drink, and a warm conversation, business though it may be. Will you accept my hospitality and hear me out?”
I did not dislike him but there was something about him that caused me to be on edge. But my ethics about hospitality, seeing he used the word, is that it is rude to turn it down if offered as hospitality. Just as rude as not to give it when necessity demands it.
“Very well, I accept your hospitality sir.”
We entered the coffee shop and found it empty as it was mid-morning. The early rush was over and the staff was waiting for the noon one in a couple of hours. We ordered our drinks. I ordered my standard hot chocolate, as I don’t like hot coffee very much, but I did want a warm-up before I returned to the park. The man I was with ordered black coffee but with a coffee bean I knew was expensive. He had high tastes. Who am I to say anything about this. In the summer I would be buying an iced coffee ( I prefer mine cold) and with the same attention to the bean I wanted. Vagabonds have their rich excentricities at times.
Once we got our drinks which only took the staff a couple minutes we found a seat as far away from the counter as the stranger I was with would walk. He wanted our conversation to be private as much as possible, apparently.
“Yes, this will do.”, he said.
At first, we said nothing as he pulled out a flask from inside his coat and added some of its contents to his coffee, and then offered some to me.
“More of your hospitality?”
“Yes, actually. This is mead. It will both sweeten your drink and enlighten your mind.
I nodded my acceptance, as I felt once again that hospitality rules required it. I didn’t think this man had any more to do with me other than offering me a proposal and this was a public place. I didn’t think the coffee would be spiked.
The mead combined with my hot chocolate was delightful. I actually felt fairly warm after a few sips and I felt a little more alert and mindful. If it was spiked I felt it would do the opposite, so genuinely magical. Perhaps my new acquaintance was a wizard after all or at least an alchemist.
“Thanks, this is very good.”
“Welcome, now to my proposal.”
Then he touched my hand and the world faded from existence.
End of Part 1
The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard, and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.