His rhythmic gait tells a story of a misfit. His unmistakable side-by-side quasi wallow/swagger personifies and defines who he is and what’s he about: a harmless guy trying to get along in a world that may not have been so accommodating to him.
I’d know him anywhere because once you know him, well, he kinds of grows on you—and I’m okay with this sentiment towards him. In his own way, he’s become a welcomed and expected fixture and the neighborhood. And I guess, I wouldn’t have it any other way. His presence tells me in an odd way, that if he’s around, everything alright.
And how could you miss him? On any given day, he’s wearing his blinding white tee-shirt; his two sizes, too big jeans and worn sneakers that no longer has any emblem. Yet, his whole countenance is one of peace and contentment shown in his goofy like smile and his expressive beady eyes. While he hides behind lots of emotions, it’s quite clear that he’s purposeful and intentional.
First impressions could be misleading.
At first, I chalked up his daily walks to be a nervous condition.
“That boy know he could walk,” I heard a few neighbors remark.
“You could set your clock around him. Mark my word.”
“You think those walks amount to anything? I’ve seen him all around town just a walking and he’s happy as a lark.”
And it was true. He could be anywhere, anytime in any type of weather. Yet, what few people knew about him is that on most days, his walks consisted of getting to the bus. Why? Because, he had a bona fide job. No need to do a double take. He’s wearing a bright, bright neon yellow jacket, the kind you see the county workers wearing when they’re working on roads. He’s all smiles, but he’s serious about his mission: He’s going to work and proud of it too!
“Hey Octavius,” I’d say and wave enthusiastically.
“Hey, ah, Mz. Lad-ee,” he’d say with a smile spreading across his face.
“Need a ride?” I offer even though I was knew he was just going up the hill. I figure it would be one less day he’d have to walk.
“Sho, thanks, Mz. Lad-ee,” he’d respond gratefully and joyfully.
He’d thank me profusely and then he would be on his way/mission.
As much as I enjoyed him, I couldn’t help but to worry about his welfare. Octavius-bless his soul–would walk for hours alone. One thing I certain about my friend, he loved walking to the 24-hour Chevron for his Mountain Dew, be it blistering conditions or blistering hot. Yet, I always worried.
Finally, I had to say something to him.
“Be careful out there Octavius,” I’d say hoping he’d pick up on the concern I felt for him. While I thought our neighborhood was fairly safe, walking late at night, well, I couldn’t be sure what kind of chaos he might run into.
Would he become easy prey to those who would take advantage of him? Could he discern harm and/or be able to sidestep it and come out unscathed?
“What about his family?” I thought to myself many times.
Could this be a clue they had complete confidence in Octavius despite his “challenges?” Or was I limiting him with my own perceptions?
Last summer, Octavius simply disappeared.
“Hey, have you seen Octavius I remember asking my family members.
“Nope,” they said. “How long has he been gone?”
“Almost the whole summer,” I said sadly.
Inwardly, I couldn’t help but to look for my friend. Suddenly, I found myself missing and wishing for his daily/nightly walks. But more so, I wanted to know he was okay. Then one day as I was exiting my car, I heard his voice.
“Hey ah, Mz. Lad-ee.”
“Where have you been?” I asked excitedly.
“California,” he said proudly.
“What you know about California?” I teased him about my old stomping grounds.
“Got to know Callie real goud,” he said nodding his head. “I was training to drive big trucks all up and down Callie. I’m gonna get licensed.”
I couldn’t contain my array of emotions. “Well, I’m happy for you.”
Our lives turned back to normalcy. For a long while, Octavius returned to walking. And I returned to feeling that sense of security knowing he was still walking.
Maybe it was just as well to leave well enough alone.
Then it happened again. Octavius disappeared. This time, I had to know the reason. By now, he had become like a family member to me. The other day, I spotted a member of his family. Forget feeling bashful, this time I was on a mission.
“Excuse me, where’s Octavius?” I blurted out and waited anxiously for an answer.
“He moved to Florida.”
At that moment, I felt an array of emotions. That night, I remembered something profound Octavius said and I just cried. It was one of those times when my fears/concerns had gotten the best of me.
“Aren’t you scared? I asked trying to control my once again emotions.
“Scared? Nope. He’s been too good to me,” he said pointing towards the sky. “And I know, He’s got me.”
Not a day goes by when I don’t miss my friend. Yet, I hear his unmistakable voice and I hear that he’s unshakeable, confident and wise.
Yes, I know God’s got him and knowing that, I know my special friend is in good hands.