Looking for the Way

He lived in a garage. He’d been living there for years. On the roof he had a little garden.

The garage was in the middle of the city. The city was as ugly as it was beautiful, he had been heard saying.

He didn’t have many possessions. A few books on Chinese philosophy, martial arts, and ukiyo-e. A few clothes. A radio. A gas stove.

He didn’t talk much. He was known around his neighborhood. People thought he was weird. Not crazy, though. He never acted crazy. He just didn’t talk much.

He liked to sit on the garage’s roof. Especially at dusk and dawn. No one knew when he actually slept. Candles used to burn for a long time in the garage. And he was up on the roof by five every morning.

Hardly anyone ever dared talk to him. Only kids, occasionally. Sometimes he responded, sometimes he didn’t. Once a boy called him “Ghost Dog.” – “Ghost Dog was a Samurai,” he said. “I ain’t no Samurai.”

There was some graffiti down by the bridge, done years ago. It was said to be his:

Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water,
Yet nothing can better overcome the hard and strong,
For they can neither control nor do away with it.

He walked a lot. Always slowly and absent-minded (at least, so it seemed). People were wondering what his walking was all about. And where he was going. But he never really went anywhere. He just walked.

If anything ever caught his attention it was alley cats. He’d been seen around the neighborhood taking care of them. Sometimes alley dogs, too.

He spent a lot of time in the park. Or, in parks, rather. He knew all the parks around the city. He’d sit on a bench for hours, observing. What, no one knew.

A girl once asked him why he never talked. He said, probably ‘cause he didn’t have anything to say. “But everyone has something to say,” the girl insisted. - “Maybe,” he conceded after a while.

Most people in his neighborhood respected him. Or feared him. Often, that difference wasn’t clear.

Even the gangs left him alone. He could walk around the hood any time by himself and wouldn’t be bothered. The brothers had even been seen taking a step back when he passed by. No one had ever seen him fight, but he had a reputation.

It was told that he had been a martial arts master. It was told that he’d gotten into many fights around town. No one knew for sure. But most believed it.

“Do you think he’s a wise man?” a neighborhood boy once asked a neighborhood girl. - “No,” she said, “I think he’s a sad man.”