Posted on January 16, 2019
I’ve always trusted the wind to carry me where I need to go. I’ve trusted it ever since that day in the park when I was just a young boy, where there sat three older boys. Men, even. The wind wasn’t there when I decided, instead of moving as quickly past the park as I could like my gut told me to, to walk into the park to show that I wasn’t afraid of them. I’d been faced with worse in my life up until then. I could handle it. I wouldn’t back down.
I sat on the swing, saw the way the three of them looked at me. I was alone, and my demeanor often invited violence or worse. Still, that voice in my gut screamed – though the three of them had done nothing but look at me and speak softly among themselves. Having proved myself in the face of anticipated danger, I rose from the swing and walked calmly through the sand and sparse grass to the park entrance. I was shaking, and I did not know why. It happened fast. I had just rounded the corner, and as I did so, I noticed the three young men getting up from their perch and following me.
“Hey, where do you think you’re going?” I heard one of them say.
I swallowed. My heart pounded. I froze. The wind kicked up around my ears. I heard bells ringing all around me. The wind seemed to grab hold of the backs of my arms and the backs of my legs and push me. I fought against it at first, startled, and despite my efforts I still moved ahead a few feet. The wind stopped momentarily and I heard footsteps falling hard behind me. With that, the wind kicked in again and this time I trusted in it, believing myself in danger. It carried me down the street, and I worked with it, using my little legs to pump down the asphalt, cutting through semi-mowed lawns. It was a hard run, and they pursued me for unknown reasons – shouting at me to stop and then telling me that I better run at the same time. I took refuge under an old trestle and ate berries until the inside of my mouth turned purple and the sky turned almost an equal shade of color.
So, on a night recently before winter, when I heard the wind calling, as it often does – I went outside.
The bricks were slick with rain and fallen branches and leaves the color of fire. I walked silently under buzzing street lights. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I followed my feet, which brought me to an old stone church, the shadow of its tower extending into the night. I moved up its stone steps and sat underneath the arch of a doorway. A sign on the door read SANCTUARY – and I treated it as such. I sat there for a long time, reflecting. A white flag with a red cross whipped like thunder and every once in a while I would see a car move cautiously down the street – but no people.
Eventually, I moved on from there and walked past old buildings. The old fire station. The McLellan Mansion. The Longfellow House. Trees, animated by the wind, made shadow puppets on the walls of these old lived-in-spaces. I looked for wraiths in windows and found none, but I soon became a wraith in my own right, looking in at people from the outside. I passed a diner – closed – but a lone woman diligently wiped the counter and made eye contact with me through the glass. I moved on, her eyes following me, curious, down the street until I passed a bar – closed – where a young man wiped glasses with a cloth and hung them upside down over the bar. He felt my eyes on him as I passed, and he must have just gotten a glimpse of my dark form flit by the window.
I followed a path of leaves, swirling in circles. It brought me down Congress Street, down through the Old Port – to the water. The waves surged and beat against the docks. I was soaked from the rain. A man asked me for change, and I had none to give. I met a friend unexpectedly and said hello and good luck. I had a conversation with a woman about my buttons and about marijuana. A man shouted from his car something about my wallet. These are the encounters a wraith will often have here in Portland.
Eventually I made my way back home. On my way back, I thought about why I did what I did, why I let the wind try to speak to me. Why I walked alone through the streets of Portland at such an hour. Part of it is reflection – walking through the empty streets as pure energy is moving things, doing things all around you – nothing can compare to that sense of rejuvenation, of non-stagnation. Part of it is isolation – nobody is on the streets in such weather, except for people like me. I took in the city in a new way, finding secrets previously hidden from my eyes in plain sight. Part of it is hope – hope that something amazing will happen. Part of it is, going back to reflection, also looking for answers to things I’ve been asking myself.
The downside to this is that I don’t always know what questions I’m asking myself, and the wind also doesn’t always answer.