As RR headed off to talk to other friends in his street community there was the space to engage with his friend who had been sitting quietly by watching RR choose Buddhas and regale me with his prison stories.
I asked him if he too would like a Buddha from my bag. He moved towards me with an air of reserved politeness. Just as RR’s cheekiness had been so evident so was the reflective gentleness of this man.
Involuntary shivers coursed his body as his thin, jacket failed the task of keeping him warm. I asked him if he needed warmer clothing but he said he would be fine.
His hands did not need to dwell long to investigate the little bag of Buddhas as he immediately knew the blue, green one was for him. He liked the shape and colour. He was interested in who had donated it. We began to talk and he told me that coping with illness was a significant aspect of the journey that eventually ended with him living on the streets.
Like others had shared with me previously, he chose to sleep out after finding the emergency housing he was often offered became intolerable with violence and drugs poisoning the atmosphere.
He began to talk about his love of music and poetry. This was when I noticed the shivering in his body less and the light in his eyes more. He had studied literature at Uni and had been a musician singing and playing the piano. Tentatively he requested I look up his name on Youtube on my phone so he could show me some songs recorded with a friend in 2013.
He was happy for me to share this phase of his life when his creative expression did not have to bunker down on the concrete alcoves in the lanes of Melbourne.
Soon RR, his mate, returned to deliver to me another friend of his, Shuffles. He said Shuffles ‘might like a Buddha, too’ .
RR’s energy began to surround us and I could feel this gentle, musical man begin to slip into the background again. But before he did, he shook my hand, paused and as a parting gift delivered verbatim a portion of a 1899 poem ‘Antagonish’ by William Hughes Mearns (I found this out later on Google)
‘As I was going up the stair
I met a man who wasn’t there!
He wasn’t there again today,
Oh how I wish he’d go away.’
I thanked him for this unexpected gift.
By this time, I sensed all I needed to do was give in to the rich flow of life that was unfolding before me, accept what might be next in store for me, and turn to meet Shuffles.
to be continued …..
Buddha donated by Leicestershire Study group, UK.