• We watched him. We all just sat and stared, figuratively. There was a cigarette dangling from his lips and a pack of matches pinched in his fingers. The scent of smoke filtered in and out of our minds as the smoke itself filtered in and out of his lungs. He pretended to be oblivious to us. We pretended to be indifferent to him. But we were still watching him.

    He was dressed in white, a fanciful color, something dictating purity, or cleanliness, but from what we could see he bore none of that. His legs were crossed. He hummed. Watching him offended me, offended us all to some degree. I wanted to shake him. But I couldn’t bring myself to touch him, to speak to him. He whispered against my thoughts every moment I saw him, and most that I didn’t, whispered vile, disgusting things about himself I’d never heard him utter, but was certain had to be true. He was different. It sickened us.

    Eventually, the day would pass and dissolve into nothing, as had several before, and we would walk past this very place again, staring into our coffee, the lot of us, all politely ignoring everyone and everything around us, while snickering in our minds, casually disdainful of everyone to some degree. Eventually, we would pass where he sat and pretend we’d forgotten him, while tracing the figure of him with our eyes as we sauntered past, haughty and indignant that we should share the air that he tainted, and not only with his tobacco. It was just a park bench, and he was just a homeless man, but with every new day that would flicker by, his difference scalded me further and further. He reminded me of a self promoted monk, some holy man who decided upon himself that he was above the rest of us, simply because he could afford only a trip or two to the laundry mat, something like a dollar, and a pack of cigarettes weekly. It bothered me that his frugality could muster such a pathetic, quiet dignity. It bothered me that we could shuffle past in reverence for the dead while mocking him inside out hearts, deeply disturbed by his life and being, but careful to tread near him. I came to loathe him.

    He spent his days on a park bench, contemplating the sun as we peeled away our faces and pretended we were something we weren’t. He occupied as if it were his the very same place at all times, entertaining a feeble excuse for life and thought. He bore an air of enlightenment, something tentative but excruciatingly exquisite in its realism and depth of character. Here we were, prostitutes to conformity, slaving away to achieve material happiness, convincing ourselves that to be content you had to be miserable. And here was this man, a senator come and gone, who stood at the peak of the world, impervious to reputation because no one even remembered his name. He didn’t have anything to show for life’s struggle, nor any desire to worship plastic Gods at paper alters. In a cosmetic world, he doesn’t blend in, without the altered identity and surgically achieved perfection for which we all worry our nails and wrack our minds for the right amounts of this and that to compliment our manicured marriages and homes. He is an example that structure really could be false. He wants nothing, needs nothing and is nothing. He is different because he is unglorified.

    We ponder this humiliation over coffee as we watch him, day by day. We avoid him, for all that he could influence upon us. Our affluence is a ticket somewhere. We certainly must serve a purpose.

    And when he disappeared one day, he faded from existence, and every day drifted again toward conformity. When he was gone, the creases between our eyebrows ceased to be, and the world was richer and more stable. And like before, we pretended never to have known him. There was no real search, just a few foot prints planted in the dirt to portend some care. At first their were words, feigned concern, but all of us knew that it was just as cosmetic as everything else. Who had the time to pay tribute to a homeless man?