Stain and I walk for a while where there is a whole lot of nothing but houses and a few office buildings. We walk for a while longer, and finally get to a nice, reasonably well lit path that will take us all the way downtown. The path begins at a west-end park, in a bit of questionable neighborhood. Yes, it’s dark, but we’re drunk superheroes with no real sense of personal safety, as you might expect of people like us.
Although the pathway is a nice riverside walk during the day, it’s a bit of a different story at night. A man on the street, likely transient in nature, approaches us. He has a surprisingly strong build for someone without a home. “Do you guys have change?”
We both search through our pockets. I apologetically hand him twenty cents. “I’m sorry this is all I have.”
“Thank you so much. I just need to catch a bus.”
Stain looks inquisitive. “Where are you going?”
“I don’t know. Anywhere but here.”
Stain and I look at each other, and I speak up. “We’re going anywhere but here, but we’re walking.”
“Oh? You’re going that way.” He points in the direction we’re headed.
He looks at me as though I’m from a foreign land.
“Down . . . town? What direction is this downtown in?”
Stain looks at him and points down the path. “It’s that way.”
The transient looks confused and upset.
I elaborate. “Yes, it’s that way. That way is North.”
The transient looks around, almost to make sure nobody else is watching us. “True north or north north.”
I look directly into his eyes, to see if anyone is home. “I don’t think we’re close enough to the North Pole that it would make an actual difference.”
“Right, right, right, right. Left. No, no. It’s up. North is up on a map.”
Stain actually scratches his head at the transient’s ramblings. “Yes, on a map, North is up.”
“You are going down, Downtown, but you are going up. You are going up to go down.”
Stain and I look at each other, trying to figure out what to say or how to help, but the transient continues his ramblings.
“I never go up. I go down. I go down to go down. I never go up to go down. I never go up to go up. I don’t go North.” His voice begins to elevate, and he’s now spitting while speaking. “What kind of people go North? What kind of people are you? It’s cold there. I go South. I go down.”
Stain has a silly grin on his face. “You only ever travel South?”
“Well, sometimes left and East, but never North, never, never, never up and usually down, usually South.”
My logic diarrhea comes oozing out of my mouth before I have a chance to wipe it away. “That’s going to be a problem for you. You really shouldn’t take the bus or any other means of vehicular transportation. If you’re aiming to mostly travel South and never North, you will get to the South Pole and be stuck there forever. You should walk. Take your time and see the sites. It might take you a lifetime just to get to the tip of South America. It’ll be your life’s journey, instead of just a cold icy prison.”
The transient quickly grabs my hand slams the twenty cents back into it. “You’re right. I wish I had of run into you earlier. You are so right. Thank you so much. I will remember your words forever wise man.”
“You can keep the money. You might need it.”
He looks at me and caresses my face as though I were his lover. “You keep the money. I’m sure you will need it.”
He skips off into the distance like a schoolboy on Ritalin. I don’t have the heart to tell him he’s traveling North, and Stain just thinks it’s funny.