There was that old guy again. This time he was standing next to me. I had never seen him before from so close and it was a little getting used to. So many wrinkles that his face sunk inwards, nose hairs splayed out of his nostrils like tentacles, greased down strands across his scalp, and worse of all was that smell. He smelled like sweat. He smelled like sweat and leather and alcohol all put together. But he was shaven, clean-shaven, and he was wearing some sweet-smelling aftershave that almost, but not quite, came through the mixture of all the other smells. It was the thick curtain through which his head peered out between the slit just opening. I has seen him often walking past my house, clear on over the opposite side of the street, hunched down looking at the ground, weaving back and forth, his long arms swaying and elongated, almost touching the ground like a gibbon ape. He was always mumbling, about this and that, but because I had never been that close to him I could not make out the many words and complicated sentences. So there I was standing right next to him. Rather, he was standing right next to me. I turned my head and noticed that he was looking straight into my face. Only this time we was muttering again, and unlike the past I could hear his many words very clearly. It was no longer distant mumbling sounds, but actual consonants spaced cleanly with the smoothest vowels one could ever imagine.
"They are everywhere you know, all around, and you can see them but cannot see them at the same time," he said to me.
"They?" I asked
"Yes, they who have come to let us know that we have done well, amazingly well."
"Have we then?"
"Listen!" He shouted so loud that it startled me, but I became silent. I stopped and started listening. The old man pointed over there, and his forefinger showed me exactly where that thing or person was standing. And it was coming closer to us.
"They say...they say that we have done well."
"What then? What have we done so well?" I asked.
"We have nearly made it but not quite. We will need their help, accept what they have to offer us, surrender to the new ways..." His eyes rolled back and he seemed to be hearing voices, a song, some kind of harmony. He nodded his head up and down to the imaginary beat. I said nothing, waiting for him to do something or other.
With that he bent down, picked up an imaginary strand between his fingers and showed it to me.
"See, this is the proof, the proof that it is really happening. You do see it don't you?"
I nodded my head, not because I was being polite but because all of a sudden I could see it. I saw it with my own eyes. It was not a strand of hair, but it was a small note. On the note were scribbled a number of sentences, in some foreign language which I did not understand.
"I see that you cannot read the ancient scriptures," he said, and continued in the same breath "then let me translate the message for you."
I waited and waited, but the old man did nothing. He just stood there, looking more intensely than ever at that spot between and just above my eyes. Then he was gone.
That episode occurred six months ago. Since then I have been doing the same thing. I saw myself in the mirror that day, the real me. The old man had not disappeared at all. He was I, and I am he, now. Each and every day I wander along the opposite side of the street, hunched down looking at the ground. I find people and things and non-things all over the place. I translate for them the secret message.
And you know what? We have almost made it. So far we have done all right, not bad at all for imperfect beings, sinful creatures, squandering and drowning in our own mud puddles we call reality. We are good, we are fine and we are getting better. Better and better and better.
Then be silent now, and let me translate the message for you.