Bill had the sense he wasn’t normal. By most accounts, that sense had long been validated. So here he sat, many things on his mind. Some of them large things; like the size of the universe and just how big is it anyway? Other things small—like, if you crap in an airplane toilet, where exactly does it go? The thin waxy tissue of a flower petal grasped awkwardly between thumb and forefinger, it seemed to him that those big things and little things must somehow, some way, share a mutual place in the world. Why he’d been sitting outside a Stop n’ Shop, over on the median between the chain link fence and rusty iron of a homeless clothes and shoe exchange receptacle, he couldn’t quite tell. But not sleeping well can lead to many things that you can’t quite tell—why get in your car and drive, on a Sunday morning so early that even the God-huggers haven’t rolled out of bed yet, as if somehow this early start to nowhere can ease a condition you’ve yet to even diagnose— just one more thing he couldn’t tell. Movement anywhere, in any direction, and for any purpose—or no purpose at all—it seemed a vital remedy. However temporary.
The waxy organic film between his fingertips had begun to wear….the tissue of the petal wearing thin like a ply of toilet paper. Back up against the iron dumpster, Bill had two thoughts competing presently for his attention—“where am I going to go after this?” and “I wonder what kind of panties that woman was wearing” They could have been white cotton, like Elvis would’ve liked…and then again, they could be thongs…or g-strings, or something even cooler. Bill licked his chapped lips, the blustery Autumn wind mussing his already unkempt mop of hair. The woman in question, of course, was the one that in some stretch had led him to this position between chain-link fence and rusty iron dumpster. Having made the most tentative of plans with her, and his general paucity of plans in general, had unexpectedly built up a kind of disappointment when he’d failed to hear from her the Saturday evening before. Maybe she forgot. Just plum forgot. It’s possible, he thought. Maybe she’d just blown him off, and maybe the initial invite had been an empty gesture to start with. Either way, Bill hadn’t slept the night before. And feeling the urge some junkies feel once the trip becomes all too ‘real’, he’d fled his apartment, as if a simple change of location might somehow reduce the feeling of panic percolating in his bones. When a junkie ‘gets the fear in him’, he simply moves about, leaves the room—“I gotta get outta here!” and sometimes, maybe, that works. Bill had never touched a drug not supplied by a man in a white coat or a dignified tweed blazer, so he wouldn’t have known all that well. In any case, this was where he was. Between a chain-link fence and an old rusty dumpster. The convenience store round the corner, littered about the gutters and curbs with half-smoked cigarettes and profylactic wrappings, beer bottles and losing scratch-off tickets, had been open all night. 24 Hours. In all those hours, someone had been in there, manning the counter. Bill hadn’t gone in. He’d pulled into the parking lot round 4:48 and walked around for a bit. For the most, he’d been sitting, however. The brittle fatigue of insomnia saturating his bones, this spot had among all others seemed least objectionable. That was saying something.
Around the corner and up the way a bit, he’d noticed while wandering only briefly, stood an odd little shack surrounded by statues and trees. The sign out front read “Wat Yarn”, or something like that. He couldn’t quite tell you. Following closer inspection, he’d realized it to be a very small Buddhist sanctuary. Among all the Stop n’ Shops, the strip malls and the Citgo’s, he’d never seen such a thing. It was strange. Approaching the gate (and there was indeed a gate), Bill noticed a wooden signpost reading “All Are Welcome”. A Buddhist monastery, out in the middle of such suburban madness…it seemed in a way…Dadaist.
Circling the winding cobblestone paths outside for a time and then inching closer to the golden idols set about over the short bridge, underneath the padoga surrounded by rocks and bonsai plants (he assumed), there sat a very peaceful stone sculpture. Only moments away from the chain-link fence and rusty iron dumpster, this monument to tranquility had all the trappings and pathos of a beautiful rose blossom in a pot full of cow manure. What a thing to see, Bill thought, inching closer before realizing that maybe he’d be offending the gods (or at least the groundskeeper) by approaching this simple thing of beauty. He backed away and took a seat on the bench just outside the entrance to the small temple. A sense of undeserved and misplaced tranquility came over him.; with a Stop n’ Shop and a rusty old homeless shoe and clothing drop-off receptacle not meters away, it seemed any calm or solace here was simply not ‘appropriate’. Is there really any beauty in a blossom grown from manure? Whatever peace this zen oasis did offer would always be tempered by that; a sense of things not too far away that are to say the least not as tranquil, not as beautiful…that if you take only a step or two from your current position, you’re back between a chain-link fence and an old rusty dumpster. That bothered him.
Bill sat, still, and contemplated that. They say that the universe is endless. At least that’s what Bill had thought he’d heard somewhere. And that, if you measure the natural history of the earth as the 24 hour cycle of a standard clock, we only first break onto the scene a few milliseconds to midnight. Before that, it’s all pretty much dead. Of course, massive changes and biological revolutions occur within those 23 and a third hours…but to us, Bill thought, it might as well be one extended forward to the novel—the real story. “that’s wrong,” he thought, “and it’s not true.” But thinking of the plans for this Halloween eve, and the woman who obviously thought not enough of him to so much as confirm their cancellation, all those billions of years of glacial, geological and biological change—the evolution of the natural world to the point of his sitting here in a rose blossomed from a turd, it couldn’t matter less. The universe be damned. Bill was lonely.