Jamieson Wolf Villeneuve
“Are you Palestinian?”
“What?” Owen said.
“Are you Palestinian?” the man repeated.
“I thought you might be, ‘cause of the way you have your scarf.”
Owen had a wide, hand knit light blue scarf wrapped around his neck several times to battle the cold winter winds. The folds of the scarf billowed out of his coat, creating a large, turtle-like collar of blue wool.
“Nope. Sorry.” Owen said.
“I saw you walking from far away. I thought to myself, that guy is either Palestinian or Jewish. You Jewish?”
“Nope.” Owen wished the man would leave him alone and let him return to the book he was reading. Waiting for a bus late Sunday afternoon that was taking its sweet time in coming, mittens covering hands, nose plunged deep into a novel; Owen wanted nothing more than the man to leave him alone. He had worked a long day, he was tired, cold, and grumpy and was in no mood to talk to strangers. The man was still talking to him.
“You gay?” the man asked.
Owen failed to see what the question had to do with anything and chose not to answer. Instead he plunged his nose back into his novel.
“You gay?” the man asked again.
“Then why you got those ear rings?” the man asked. “That mean you’re gay, don’t it?”
For the first time, Owen took a good look at the man. He was black, skin so dark it was the colour of night. He was dressed well, but looked like he had seen better days. And he reeked of alcohol. Figures, Owen thought. Guy's probably had one too many.
“What’s it to you?” Owen finally answered.
“So you do have a tongue in your head. I thought as much. I wasn’t sure you did, you know? So you’re gay right? Those gloves, they're rainbow coloured.”
Owen looked down at his gloves that were striped in purples and blues, but far from the rainbow of colours used to identify gays and lesbians. He wondered where this guy was going with this line of conversation, but didn’t really care. You got your share of nutballs everyday and you just had to deal with them. But instead of saying nothing and walking away, which would have been the wisest course of action, Owen replied: “They’re not rainbow coloured. They’re just gloves, is all.”
“Just gloves?” replied the man. “But they keep your hands warm don’t they? If they do, then they’s magic gloves, wonder dust gloves. Who give you them gloves?”
“And do you think of your Ma every time you put them on?”
“Yeah, I do, actually.”
“Then they’s magic gloves my friend. I know you gay guy, even though you won’t tell me. But I want you to know that I’m okay with that, I’m cool with that. Some guys, my friends, they kick your ass from here to there, but me, I’m cool with that, good with that. You understand?”
“Sure.” Owen was beginning to get a little uncomfortable around the man. There was something in his eyes, dark and deep, that told Owen he was talking to a man not all there. His eyes looked as if his sanity was straddling both worlds: the mundane and the beyond.
“Good. Let me tell you something, you listenin’?”
“Good, now listen. Cus I’m not going to say it but once, alright?”
“Here it is: everything in the world is magic. That there is the most important piece of information that you’ll ever hear. Everything in the world is magic. Say it.”
“Everything in the world is magic.”
“What do you mean why?”
“Why is everything in the world magic?”
“Because people believe in the impossible.”
“Wrong. People don’t believe in what they can’t touch, hold. Why you think I’m telling you this, where you learn yourself? From a Cracker Jack box? Sonny, you gotta lot of learnin’ to do if that’s what you think.”
Owen pondered this man, darker than night, in front of him. He had gone to college, for crying out loud. He didn’t have any learning left to do. As if reading Owens’s mind, the man continued.
“I’m not talking about learnin’ from a school. No, none of that. I’m talkin’ about what you can learn from life, from mystery, from enchantment. It’s all around you, son, all around you.”
“There’s magic here? At a bus stop?”
“Sure,” the old man said. “You just have to look. Up there!” He pointed to the sky. Owen looked at where the man had pointed, but all he could see was a bird in flight.
“I only see a bird.” Owen said.
“What’s it doing?”
“There’s your proof of magic. Surely, flying is magic.”
“But it can be explained by science,” Owen replied.
“Bah!” the man said with a wave of his hand. “What do we need of that? I ain’t learned nothing from science. I’ve learnt from life, my friend, life itself feeds the imagination.” The man paused, as if collecting his thoughts, and resumed. “Only in life can you live your dreams.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means,” The man replied, “that you got a lot of learnin’ and livin’ left to do, and there’s too much livin’ to do to be grumpy or wonder when the old man will leave you be.” Owen couldn’t hide the look of surprise on his face. “Think I’m senile, do you? You’ll learn.”
Owen could see his bus coming towards him. Before it got there, he turned to the old man. “Why did you tell me this?”
“So, you’d tell someone else of course. That’s the thing ‘bout learnin’. You gotta pass it on. I’ve told you so you tell someone else and that person tells another person. It’s all about karmic debt.”
The bus was there. “Karmic debit?”
“Look it up, sonny. Look it up,” the old man replied.
The bus doors closed shut behind him. Owen paid his fare and took a seat amongst the other rush hour passengers. He felt different inside, changed. There was a kernel of knowledge inside him that had begun to sprout. He could feel it pushing its way into the curves and crevices of his body.
Knowledge had been planted within him. A kernel of life. And from that, a garden of possibilities...
“Life is magic.” He said out loud.
“What’s that?” said the man beside him.
“Life is magic,” Owen replied, a smile growing on his face. “Pass it on.”
©2003 by Jamieson Wolf Villeneuve