He sits crossed legged in the grass at the entrance to the off-ramp. It is cold. It is raining. It is dark. The headlights of passing cars twinkle off the raindrops as they fall from the brim of his cap and disappear. He takes another drag off his Camel, savoring the momentary warming in his chest that follows. A father driving his sleeping family through this stormy night sees the smoldering end brighten, then fade away in his mirror as he speeds by. The father thinks about him for an instant. He thinks how cold and lonely and maybe hungry he must be. He almost brakes to pull over, but then remembers the feeling, even though their eyes never met, as he drew nearer and passed. It was like laying your hand on the concrete of a dam and feeling the hum of the water flying by hundreds of feet below you. Like the buzz in your chest from being near a high voltage transmission line. Like feeling the pressure drop ahead of a tornado. No, the man would be fine. Somehow he knew, even after as many as a thousand cold, rainy nights, he would always be fine. The father sped along and tried to forget him.
And the man remained. As he had been taught to do and had always done, he remained.
He did not want a ride. When you have no destination, it does not matter how long it takes to arrive. He had stopped just to rest. Not to scam or to beg or to steal. He lived in a dimension filled with the crumbs of the world most people knew. Where the sham many people live leaves a wake of discards behind like the shiny trail of a snail. He pitied normalcy, its patrons thinking that security is so secure not realizing the wolf is always at the door. The monster really is in the closet. The ledge is really just behind your heels. And when you fall you leave it all behind for the ones who knew better all along.
And he had always known better. Maybe not from the womb, but as early as he could remember, he had known. He had known how thin it all is. How flimsy and how weak. He had known better than to live in it and rely on it and become one with it. He had known to understand himself his world and his God. He had known that what happened to him did not matter, or not nearly as much as how he reacted to it. He had known that your talk is just that, but your walk is what counts. So when it all fell apart for him, when all the edges of life turned sharp and bloody, he continued to walk, to walk right through it. Just one man. One man walking on a ball spinning under the sun, knowing it would not change a thing if he let go.
And it was time to keep walking. He stood up, his knees snapping and popping, rubbing his legs that had just started to go to sleep. It was raining harder now. The cars that had once flown by in a steady line were now few and far between. Night had set in, and the cloud covered moon glowed wet on the road in front of him. He grabbed his pack from the ground and shouldered it. He took one more long drag on his dart before putting it under foot, taking the first step of what would be thousands through the night.