What caused me to speak to the man, I cannot rightly say, for I do not make it my business to chat with homeless people. They are a dime a dozen in the city in which I live and work and if I regularly engaged with them, I would never make any of my appointments on time. But there was something about this man with the sun-faded, barely legible cardboard sign, something in the deep well of his eyes that beckoned me.
He told me his name was Horace as I patted my pockets to add validation to my claim that I had no money to drop into his dingy paper coffee cup, a statement I made before he even asked. In truth, he never asked. I simply went into automatic defensive mode, not wanting to seem heartless, but not offering any charity, either.
“We all drop breadcrumbs in life,” Horace said.
“Do we?” I asked, struggling to mark his intention.
Horace nodded. “Even the most carefree among us, and we do this because normalcy comes well-equipped with comfort zones. You may take exception to the word normalcy but it has nothing to do with the definition society places on the word normal. Here it applies to the recurrent patterns in your life, the things you’ve grown accustomed to.”
“I don’t follow you.”
“The breadcrumbs are used to lead us back to the path of familiarity when the detours we take spiral beyond our ability to control and/or accept. I stray from the path constantly chiefly because my path is an uneventful one, which many people would kill for, but I find boring. I ought to be a baker with the number of breadcrumbs I’ve dropped over the years.”
“Um, I’d love to chat, but it’s Thanksgiving and I really must be on my way.”
“Since I’ve always been able to find my way home I never had a problem tearing my life apart,” Horace continued as if he hadn’t heard me. “Going on concrete jungle pilgrimages, and returning to my path at some later date to rebuild things from scratch. But this time is different. This time the demolition wasn’t of my choosing and there’s something about the way events have been playing out over the past six months that have clued me in on the fact I am near the end of the race.”
“Homeless yet again, despite my best efforts to avoid it, I have this sinking feeling deep in my marrow that this will be the final time. There’s no way out and no way back. All the breadcrumbs I dropped to lead me back to the main road of rebuilding my life are gone. Most likely eaten by the crows of a fate long overdue. I guess you can only hit the reset button so many times in life.
“And I can’t honestly say I didn’t see it coming. Life stopped making sense about three years ago, though not all at once. Little by little, all the rules I had ever learned, all the tricks I added to my arsenal, no longer applied. Now, life, the daily routine that the majority of the population manages to perform without a second thought or breaking a sweat, is a game I no longer know how to play. Existence no longer makes sense to me.
“Needless to say, it doesn’t help matters that I have always possessed a nihilistic bug in the back of my brain that constantly questions the logic of struggling to achieve anything when all roads lead to death.
“As you can probably work out, I do not believe in the afterlife. So that we’re clear, this is not an invitation for proselytizers to dust off their soapboxes. I am an aspiritual entity and I’ve made my peace with the fact that I shall not receive salvation. If religion works for you, good on you, I wish you nothing but the best.”
I stood there in silence, wanting to walk away, but also wanting to make sense of this interaction. As if reading my mind, Horace said,
“The purpose of my stopping you from your events of the day and rambling on about things which bear no significance to you is to pass on as many of my thoughts and impressions before I lose my sanity to the streets and become one of the wandering bagmen screaming at invisible antagonists.”
And it finally dawned on me. “You want to be remembered,” I said.
“Who among us doesn’t want to be remembered?”
“You wouldn’t happen to be hungry, would you?” I asked.
“It was not my intention to solicit charity from you, sir, at least not of the monetary kind.”
“I didn’t say anything about giving you money. I need to put something in my stomach before I go on the search and I don’t like eating alone.”
“What are you searching for?”
“Breadcrumbs,” I answered. “You said you’ve been dropping them all your life. I’m sure there are enough lingering around somewhere to get you safely back on your path.”
HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Wishing all who celebrate the holiday (and even those who don’t) good food that fills your belly, good health as you strive for your unique brand of success, and good times with family and friends. May you have all the best delights in a life filled with moments that are as sweet as pumpkin pie!