Claiming Space

I see him each day right in the middle of the bike path on Columbia Street, next to a fence covered in tarp, near the shipyards lining the waterfront.   He sits in a dilapidated lawn chair, poking at the air with an umbrella as a cane.  He is blanketed in all black, head and shoulders draped with candy colored serapes, shrouded in a cloud of bobbing pigeons.  Stray cats leak from his feet, circle him like the horses of a slow carousel.

He is a fixture, the subject of local articles, a prophet of sorts, sharing the thoughts of the alley cats he claims to know.  At night, I am told, or so the articles say, he leaves for Manhattan, rides his bike or walks over the legend of a bridge.

When I pass, when I pedal or run the path, he is not kind.  The whites of his eyes grow large and he often stands, makes a show of it, sticks the flaking, dry skin of his middle finger right in my face.  I make a point to thank him.  Out loud.  I say the words because I know no other way to acknowledge his anger than to be unapologetically grateful that I am the recipient.

He thinks the space, the slice of concrete, is his to keep.  He thinks I do not belong there with him even if I am just passing through.  What have you really claimed? I want to ask.  What’s here but you?


5 thoughts on “Claiming Space

  1. Cool story! Although its sad at the same time.

    I was in Historic Jamestown with my students the other day, and we were walking around the living museum, and part of that is to walk through a recreation of a Powhatan village, and then to walk through a reconstruction of Jamestown Fort. I asked my kids to keep an eye out for one big obvious difference. They didn't see it until I pointed it out to them at the very end.

    In the Powhatan village, nothing was fenced in, or out.

    In Jamestown, everything was.


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