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?