People on My Bus

Wisdom of the Shadows

This is a story of integration and owning a whole personality. Shadows become lights, and weaknesses become strengths. Black sheep come home, and turn white. "What we don't own in ourselves owns us." This is my story.

The Story

"Welcome to the Shadowland Line! We hope that you enjoy your journey with us."
The audio system became silent and the driver started the engine. He steered the bus to the street, and a long journey began. I sat on the front seat, wondering why I was in the bus alone, or almost alone. In the rear of the bus, I saw a shady figure, and I thought he was staring at me. I tried to concentrate on looking at the passing scenery, but my thoughts returned to the man. What does he want of me? Finally I stood up and sat down beside him. He had a narrow face, long dark mustache, and his sharp and lively eyes quickly evaluated me.
"Welcome, Master Cheater", he said. "My name is Chuck, and my friends call me Cheating Chuck."
I was about to ask why he called me Master Cheater, but he continued, "Gee, the bus is pretty crowded, isn't it."
I said I saw no one else. "As I said, you are Master Cheater. You sit on the front seat, staring at the road, and you think that you are alone. When you look behind your back, you see only me. Can't you see them?"
I tried, but I saw only the distant profile of the driver.
"Come on", he said keenly. "Stop cheating yourself. You are not alone."
I closed my eyes and reopened them, but to no avail. Yet, I knew Chuck was right. Somehow, I had a feeling that I was not alone. I shook my head a few times, and then I saw few vague silhouettes.
"Good", said Chuck.
I knew why he called me Master Cheater. He cheated other people, but I cheated myself. I was so good in it that I did not even know I was cheating. Yet, I knew, since I was uncomfortable when I looked behind my back. Chuck was enthusiastic.
"Look! Look", he yelled as his hands moved in large arches.
I looked. All sorts of people began to appear on the seats, and after a while every seat was occupied. What a family! Small, large, thin, thick, well-dressed businessmen, hippies, handicapped, athletic, clean and dirty. I could recognize some of them; there was Arnold the Addict, Restless Robert, Bart the Bureaucrat, Lonesome Lars, Violent Vincent, Ned the Nerd, and many others. I was sure this journey would not be boring.

Chuck interrupted my pondering. "Listen!" I couldn't hear anything. "Stop cheating yourself! Listen!"
"I said you are Master Cheater. Open your ears and listen."
After a long silence, I heard a flip of a page of a newspaper. Someone snored. I heard the clicks of keys as someone typed with his notepad. I heard someone biting an apple.
"Very good", Chuck smirked. "They are all real, but they will speak to you only when you speak to them first." I hesitated, yet I was curious to get to know them.
"With whom should I speak first?", I asked.
"You can start with Charlie the Crazy."
"Where is he?"
Chuck raised his finger slightly. "Right there, in the middle of the bus, under a seat."

Yep, there he was. His body trembled uncontrollably, and his mouth frothed. His head jerked randomly up and down. I walked close to him, knelt and said, "Hello Charlie!"
"Hi, Madman", he replied.
"Why do you call me Madman?", I objected.
He laughed and said, "I may be crazy in my own head, but you are crazy in the heads of many. I have difficulties in controlling myself, but you try to control everyone else."
"No, that is not true. I am controlling no one else."
Charlie stood up, stared in my eyes and said, "You are walking on eggshells in order not to be criticized. You try to be kind towards all in order to avoid facing their anger. You please people and try to control their behavior towards you by being a flexible worm. You will only end up in a knot."
As he spoke, he ceased trembling and frothing. His voice became firm, and his eyes stared deeply and peacefully in mine. He was right.
"I am your best friend here", he said. "Whenever you end up in trouble, I will help you. You can trust me." He sat down on his seat, and forgot me.

Arnold the Addict was sitting in front of him. I took a couple of steps forward, turned around and said, "Hi, Arnold! How are you doing?"
"Fine", he said without lifting his eyes from the book he was reading.
The bus stopped. "All right, guys." It was the driver. "Time for a break".
I walked out with Arnold, and sat beside him on a bench. "You sound sad", I said.
"That's what I am", Arnold sighed. He looked down and continued, "I like to be alone. I feel peaceful and good when I can read or contemplate. I guess I am not much fun to be with right now."
I looked at him with much compassion, and said, "Listen, Arnold. Maybe I can help you. Is there anything you would like to tell me?"
He shook his head slowly.
"But it hurts me when you are so sad", I said.

At that moment Charlie stepped out of the bus. "Leave him alone", he said.
"But I would only like to help him", I protested.
"He said he likes to be alone, and he wants to be in peace."
I was embarrassed. "It hurts me to see him so sad."
Charlie came nearer. "Stop trying to control him. He likes to be alone, and it is his nature to be sad. If you try to change him, I will feel bad, and I will start trembling and frothing. Then you will hurt me. There is no way you can please him, please yourself and please me at the same time. Besides, he is the most sensitive of us, and he knows the deep secrets of the soul. Leave him alone!"
I saw a small tear in Arnold's eye. "OK", I sighed.
Charlie and Arnold began to stroll towards the bus, and I heard Charlie say to Arnold, "Don't mind him. He will learn."

As I stepped in the bus, I glanced at the driver. He wore a black cap, and his profile was strong. He was like a hawk, or a gentle and wise owl. It was obvious that he would not lose his nerve easily.
"Who is our driver?", I asked a man sitting on a front seat.
"He is Pete the Pretender", he answered.
I was shocked. How can a pretender drive my bus?
"Pete", I said, "why are you driving?"
Without removing his eyes from the road, he said, "Look at these folks. How could anyone else drive this bus?"
It was evident that everyone was proud of him. "He is the best driver that we could have. He knows all the streets, and he always knows the shortest route from one place to another", someone shouted.
"How did you learn to know the streets so well?", I asked.
"I have walked every one of them. I have stood on the crossroads, and I have watched people drive. I know each and every hole, and every bump. I know how people drive on different streets. Just tell me where you want to go, and I will take you there. Besides, I know this bus like my own fingers, and there is no spot in this bus that I have not fixed at least once."
The guy on the front seat said, "Yeah, he can fix everything in this bus with minimal tools, and with few pieces of steel wire. Nothing will stop him. He drives us safely home, you can be sure of that. Look, this bus still looks like brand new, although it is pretty old."
These guys were right. I knew Pete would do it, and I was happy that he was driving.

I wanted to talk with Chuck again, but as I walked towards the back of the bus, I noticed a man happily eating an apple. He was dressed casually, in shorts and a worn T-shirt. He was not fat, but he was not thin either. "Hi", I said.
"Hello!", he said, smiling widely. "I am Dave the Different."
"What!", I said. "You look like the most normal guy here. You could stand on every street, and no one would pay attention to you. You are a stereotype of a boring middle-class man."
"Not on this bus", he laughed. "Look at those guys. I am the one who is different here."
He turned back, and started looking out of the window, munching his apple. I smiled. He was an easy-going man who did not care much what happened around him, and he was right. I began to feel great joy for everyone on the bus. I belonged here, like everyone else.

"Hey guys", I shouted. "Would you mind if I wrote about you?"
"Great! Great! Do it!", they shouted and cheered. I looked at each of them carefully, wanting to make sure that everyone agreed. I noticed that one man did not share the joy of others. He was Ned the Nerd.
"Ned, what is wrong?", I asked.
"It will not be good enough", he said.
The other guys began to swear: "Come on, Ned. It is going to be good, and you will be proud of it. You will like it. Let him do it."
Ned smiled and said, "OK. Do as you like."
Still smiling, he stared out of the window. I could tell that he was happy. After a while the clicking sounds returned as he began to work with his notepad. I knew this was my home, and I began to love it.

I sat down beside Chuck and said, "You know I am a cheater. What do you say about all the lies and deceits I have done?"
"Do not worry about them", he said. His lively eyes calmed down and he looked at me.
"You have proved that you are clever, and that your imagination is powerful in creating stories that everyone is eager to believe. You are a master of logic, and a magician. You create things that do not exist, and you make things disappear from the eyes of others. Your mind is not limited by what is, and it is a great gift."
"What about my conscience?", I objected. "I know I have done wrong things."
"Yes, you have done, but I know you are now a man of truth. You will not cheat anymore, and if you do, you will know what to do."
"I am not sure", I said.
Chuck said, "These guys will help you, but you must let them do their part. Get to know them, and get to know them well. Besides, I think that someone on this bus can tell you something about conscience".

I stood up, and began to walk towards my seat. A heavy bald man, obviously an athlete, or a bodybuilder, snored on his seat. I tried to wake him up with a few words, but he merely snored. I went back on my seat, and decided to take a nap. The journey would be long, and I had plenty of time. I glanced behind my back, and I knew that I loved these guys. Chuck trained his skills with a deck of cards, and when he noticed that I looked at him, he smiled and nodded slightly. He knew what would happen. I relaxed, and let the sleep come in.

I woke up as the bus came to a standstill. It was time for a break. Most people went out to discuss in small groups, to smoke a cigarette, or to lie down on the grass. Pete stayed on his seat behind the steering wheel, as he usually did. He picked up some dog-eared maps and guidebooks, and began to study them. Behind his back, he had a substantial library, which he studied on every possible occasion. He seemed to enjoy his work, and he never seemed to be bored.
"Where are we going to?", I asked.
"I don't know. Nobody has told me a destination. When someone says where he would like to go, I will drive there, but I don't know how to select a destination on my own." Pete continued to examine his maps, preparing himself to drive wherever anyone of us wished to go.
I did not know where we should go to, and so I asked Pete, "Is there anyone in the bus who knows where we should go to?"
Pete was quiet for a while, and said with a soft voice, "You could ask Sam the Scientist. He knows all answers."

Yeah, Sam. A middle-aged man with thin, gray hair. At times he wore thick brown eyeglasses, and he was mostly dressed in an elegant, slightly wrinkled dress. He used to be much alone, staring out of the window and making notes. I walked to his seat, and he lifted his face with a friendly expression. He smiled a humble smile, delighted by being noticed.
"Sam", I said, "do you know we should be going to?"
Surprised, as if these kinds of questions should not be asked him, he said, "No."
"But you are a scientist. Could you look through your files and choose a good destination?", I said, and I thought that I noticed a hint of a great sorrow on his face, but I was not sure.
"I am sorry", he said, "I am not allowed to do so."
I was disappointed. "But you are a scientist", I said. "It is your job."
"No," he said, "my job is to give explanations. Whenever something goes wrong, or does not work, people come to me for an explanation. If they see or do something that they do not understand, they come to me with their questions."
"Do you have answers? I mean, do you have the right explanations?"
"No," he said, "but I give them the best explanation I have. It is all I can do."
"What if you give them a wrong explanation?", I objected.
"It does not matter", he said, and his eyes reflected true wisdom. "An explanation is all that they need. Without an explanation they can not continue living, and when I give them an explanation, they will soon forget their question."
I could tell it. When I looked at the guys now playing football outside the bus, I was sure that they had forgotten their questions and answers a long time ago.
Sam continued, "Without an explanation their brains will not give them peace. When I give them an explanation, I can see how they start living in their hearts again, instead of living in their heads. Their hearts will tell them the right answers, and they will get to know secrets I was never able to know."
His voice softened, and he turned away to hide his tears. Poor Sam, I thought. Yet, I was astounded by his wisdom. He did not answer my question, and I knew I did not need an answer yet.

Suddenly I heard loud yelling outside: "Asshole! Play by the rules!"
Two guys shouted to each other, and Charlie lay on the ground, trembling and frothing. One of the fighters was Alonso the Accuser.
I rushed out, but Charlie shouted, "Stay out of this! This is none of your business!"
Feeling uncomfortable, I went back to the bus. The fight lasted for some time, until Owen the Orderkeeper said firmly, "All right! Back to the bus, everyone!"
Alonso came first with tight lips and red face, followed by his hard-hitting companion whose name I did not know. Owen followed, then the rest of the team, and Charlie came last, still trembling and sweating.

"Besides," Sam continued, "you think too much."
"Why?", I asked.
Sam looked at me gently, and pointed towards my seat. "You sit there," he said softly, "and try to understand everything. You try to understand where this bus goes, and why. As long as you look at the road, pretending that you are alone, you can not understand. Now, when you have met us, you have already stopped trying to find a perfect explanation."
"What is wrong with trying to find good explanations? I mean, it is your job to explain."
"There is nothing wrong in it. What is wrong is trying to find a perfect explanation. You will make yourself a victim of the opinions and knowledge of other people."
"How?", I said, feeling that he was right.
"When you find an explanation, you stick to it. Next, someone comes and gives you another explanation, which can be completely different, but you think it is better, since it seems to explain a few more facts. You start to follow it, and your life becomes a series of turns. You can not live by knowledge, or live chasing after knowledge."
He sighed and continued, "People don't understand everything. As long as they believe that they could explain other people and themselves, they are destined to endless turns of all varieties and sizes. Look at Dave. He doesn't care a bit of what other people are doing, and if he sees something weird, he merely shrugs his shoulders. He may appear dumb, but he is much wiser than you are. Besides, I have never seen you smile as freely as he does. You seem to carry a load on your shoulders, but he carries only his bag of apples."
I laughed. I recognized that I was afraid of being recognized as a dumb, self-satisfied, apple-munching middle-class man, but it was exactly what I wanted to be.
"You should be out there playing football with the other guys. They had their questions and answers. They were like little boys who wanted to know something, and when they had an explanation, they were happy. You are still asking questions, and you do not dare to live as yourself."
"But I don't like football", I objected.
"Oh yes, you do", Sam said, smiling widely.

"That's my place!" It was Alonso, shouting at someone behind my back. I did not even bother to look.
"Go take your own seat!"
"All right," someone said, "please calm down. Couldn't you be a bit more flexible?"
"Flexible!", Alonso snorted. "Flexibility is just another word for chaos. Take you own seat or I will carry you there."

Silence returned, and I walked back to my seat. I picked up a magazine and began to read. The bus wobbled, and I could hear occasional roars of the engine as Pete stepped on the gas pedal. I began to feel drowsy, and dropped the magazine below my seat. Before I fell asleep, I noticed that I did not pay much attention to the road.
"Who cares", I thought and fell asleep.

"Here, for you."
I woke up and saw a happy face and two hands, holding a hamburger and a coke.
"I am Hubert the Happy."
"Are you happy?", I asked, taking the hamburger and the cup.
"I don't know", Hubert said. "The name was given to me by other people who said I made them happy."
"Well, you made me happy."
"How did I make you happy?", he asked.
"You gave me a hamburger and a coke."
"Do you mean that you are happy when you have a hamburger and a coke?"
"Yes no I mean that you made me happy when you gave me something that showed me that you care about me. Do you care about me?"
"Well the bus stopped in front of a hamburger restaurant, and I knew that it would be a long time before we could eat again. When I passed you by, I noticed that you were sleeping, and decided to buy you some food."
"Did you think of me after that?", I asked.
"No," Hubert said, "why should I have? I was there with the other guys. I did not think of you again before I came back to the bus and saw you."
"How did you know I like a hamburger and a coke?"
"I did not", he said, beaming.
"What would have happened if I would not have liked them?"
"No problem, I would have eaten them myself after a while. I know everybody does not like a hamburger and a coke."
"Well thanks", I said.
"You are welcome", Hubert said and went away.

After a while, I heard Hubert's voice: "Who is this guy?"
"Don't worry about him. He will learn", Sam said, making sure that I heard him.
I smiled. It was a perfect explanation, although it explained nothing. But it made Hubert forget his question, like only a true answer can. Besides, it was all that Hubert wanted to know.

Alonso and Chuck came out of the restaurant. It was dark, and I saw their silhouettes against the porch lights. They walked side by side, and it was obvious that they liked each other. Chuck made some fast movements with his hands, and presented something to Alonso.
"Shit! My wallet! You have done this trick at least twenty times and I still don't know how you do it."
"You never will", Chuck said, handing the wallet to Alonso.
"You bet I will", Alonso said and made a few boxing movements.
Chuck kicked him on his ass, and they chased each other for twenty meters until they came to the bus. Alonso slapped Chuck on his back and said, "You first, pickpocket. I will not let you stay behind me."
Chuck jumped in, followed by Alonso, and they hurried to the back of the bus. As they sat down, Chuck took a deck of cards out of his pocket, and they began to play. Alonso laughed noisily every now and then, and Chuck seemed to enjoy the game. Few more guys joined, and Chuck did not deal since then. The laughter of Alonso died away, and it was replaced by a peaceful discussion between the players.
They were not in a hurry, and the game did not seem to be very important. There were long pauses, as they waited for someone to finish his words. After some time, the cards rested on an empty seat, and the game had turned into a silent conversation.

They were all different. I could not hear what they talked about, but they seemed to share a common interest. My heart wanted to be with them, but here I was, looking at them at the opposite end of the bus. I turned around, and began to stare out of the front window. The headlights of the bus revealed trees, houses and occasional people, but I thought of the get-together at the rear. The silent silhouette of Pete against the headlights was exactly like me: alone, and in the shadows.

After some time, Alonso came silently beside me, sat down, looked at me and said, "Hello, Lonesome Lars."
A cold shudder ran along my back. I turned around and looked at the seat of Lars. It was empty.

"Welcome home", Alonso smiled and shook my hand.
He sat quietly beside me. It had begun to rain, and the dark silhouettes of the windscreen wipers created a peaceful rhythm to the view. I waited for Alonso to speak, staring at the lights dancing on the drizzling street.
"The rules are simple", he said. "If you do not enter a football field, you are a bystander. If you do not enter a card ring, you are an onlooker. Once the game starts, you will be an outsider."
"But I don't like football or poker", I said.
Alonso turned his head slowly. "Have you ever tried?", he said with a peaceful voice.
It was years since my last football game. Occasionally I had participated in a card game, when I had not found a reasonable excuse. I had actually enjoyed them. But it was a long time ago, and now they felt like great efforts. "Not for me", I thought. Yet, a part of me wanted to be there, although I did not know exactly why or where.
"What about Chuck?", I asked.
"Does he play by the rules?"
"Yes, he does. He knows how to cheat, but he cheats just for fun. When I have three queens, I can be sure that he has four kings. At times he deals me four aces, and I have never been able to tell how he does it. But in a real game he refuses to deal. He never cheats for himself. You can trust him, and yet he is able to give you a good laugh."
Alonso stood up, looked at me said, "Rules are for those who don't know them. Once you have them in your heart, you don't need them."
He left, and a tear fell from my eye. I stared at the road and said, "Lonesome Lars, welcome home."

After staying for a while in my thoughts, I walked to Chuck. "Chuck, have you ever cheated for yourself?"
"Yes, I have," he sighed, "only to learn that it was not worth of it."
"Look at these guys. They know that I cheat, and they like it, even Alonso. At times, they come to me and ask me to show them a few tricks. They like them, and they are eager to learn to do them themselves. My tricks bring us much laughter. Had I cheated for myself, I should have kept my skills secret. Even then, they would have noticed them, and they would not have liked them. They call me Cheater, and the word bears a positive mark. Had I cheated for myself, they would also call me Cheater, but there would be no fun in the word. It would bear a mark of aversion and rejection instead. Now I am glad and proud every time they call me Cheater. My skills do not only unite me with the other guys, they unite also them. I am free to practice new tricks even when they see what I do, and they are happy when they notice that I train my skills, since they know that they will have some more fun."
Chuck fingered his cards, until I said, "Show me a few tricks."
He whined, and lifted his cards. "Here, take one."

Chuck showed me some tricks, and he was good. Few other guys joined, and before long we played together. I noticed that the athletic guy was one of the players. I stared at his large hands and his thick neck. He looked strong, yet humble and fragile. I envisioned the power of his muscles, but somehow the picture was not complete. After one more turn, he dropped one of his cards, and it slid under my feet. I picked it up and gave it to him.
"Sorry", he said.
"It's all right," I said, "although I could not avoid seeing it."
"It doesn't matter. It was my fault anyway."
I introduced myself.
"I am Carl the Clumsy", he said, looking at me with restful eyes.
After two more slow and silent rounds, Hubert said, "I quit. I am too tired to concentrate."
It was already past midnight, and we decided to try to sleep. I picked a pillow and a blanket from a compartment, and walked to my seat. Pete was still driving, and I thought, "Doesn't he ever rest." He stared at the road like a hawk, and I decided to trust him.

As I woke up, the bus stood beside a small wooden lodge. A small, weathered sign above the entrance said, "Annie's". The wind swayed the leaves, or what were left of them, of partly dried out trees separating the house from the road. Pete slept. His cap rested on a small table beside the driver's seat. Despite my aching back, I enjoyed the silence, until I heard someone's steps behind me. It was Sam.
"Time for coffee", he said.
"Not quite yet", I said, stretching my limbs.
"How important is it to have fun?"
"What do you live for?", he said, turned around and walked across the yard.

Few minutes later I decided to follow Sam. As I stepped in the restaurant, a cheery voice said, "Good morning!"
"Annie, probably", I thought. She was dark, small, and smiling.
"Thanks for bringing the rain", she said, smiling gladly as she arranged the tables for us. "Please sit down and I'll bring you a good breakfast."
I sat opposite Sam, who was reading yesterday's newspaper. "I wouldn't call it a sleep."
I would. I had slept quite well, and the energy of Annie, or whoever she was, gave me much joy. I watched her dancing between the tables, as she happily hummed a glad song.
"Here you go", she said, placing a generous breakfast on the table.
"Looks good", I smiled.
"It is", she announced and poured black coffee in a large mug.

Carl arrived, stood for a while in front of a postcard stand and picked one. As he paid for it, he dropped a coin and said "Sorry."
Annie smiled. "These coins are just too small for big your hands. Let me see them."
Carl placed his hand on the counter, and Annie laid her petite hand on his palm. She smiled. "Like a little girl holding her hand in her father's hand. I'll make you a mighty breakfast. Please sit down."
Carl walked towards our table, smiling happily. He pulled a chair and sat down.
"Good morning", he said, and his whole being proved that he meant it.
We enjoyed our breakfasts in peaceful silence, listening to the joyous humming of Annie. Sam and I had already finished, and Carl began to study the yesterday's newspaper. Sam and I decided to take a walk. Before long, we found ourselves bracing against a sturdy fence, looking at wide-open fields.
"I have a question for you", Sam said.
"What is it?"
"How important is it to bring fun?"
A cold shudder ran along my back. "Cheating Chuck, welcome home", I said to myself. I wished that I could have seen him once more, but I knew he was gone. I knew why I missed him.

We returned, and I got myself an extra mug of coffee. I went outside and sat in a large cushioned chair, relaxing in the sunshine with the mug in my hands. Hubert came beside me.
"I would like to make Arnold happy", I said. "What should I do"?
Hubert looked at me, surprised, and said, "He is happy."
"But he looks so sad."
"Don't be fooled. Get close to him and listen. You will learn what happiness is."
"What do you mean?"
"He is happy when he listens to his heart. He is able to show someone the beauty of his sorrows. He knows the silent whispers of heart, and he is the one who can make you happy."
Hubert was silent for a while, and continued, "You worry too much."
"But I care about him", I objected.
"That's not the way to care", he said. "As long as you let other people's problems linger into your mind, you will see them hazily. Besides, you worry about wrong problems. Arnold does not need your worries, and your worries prevent you from seeing the true Arnold."
I became tense. "But if you care for someone, you worry whether he is doing well or not."
"No way", Hubert smiled. "If you worry, then what you have to share are your worries. You will see their problems the same way they do. If you do not worry, you have something different to share. Worry prevents you from listening to them, and from understanding what is good for them, and what is good for you."
"But I would like to show them that I care about them. How can I do it then?"
"Bring them a hamburger and a coke, and ask if there is anything you could do. If you can do something, do it, but then forget it. Otherwise you can not go to someone else and be with him with all of your heart."
I hesitated. "I think you are right, but I don't like it. It sounds like being a butterfly and flying from one flower to another."
"How would you like to fly, then?", Hubert asked.
"I don't know. Like a butterfly, or I don't know."
Something in my weary mind said that it was already weary enough. Yet, what Hubert had said, did not seem to fit in.
"Too easy", I thought, and returned the empty mug to Annie.

"Thanks," she smiled, "is there anything else I could do for you?"
"A butterfly", I thought, but I said, "All is well and I am ready for the road. Many thanks for an excellent breakfast."
She smiled again, and said, "Have a good day."
She had made us all happy, especially Carl, but I was pretty sure that she would not worry about us after we were gone. Her heart would be with the other customers, and if she would worry about us, they would not receive her warmth. Something in my mind wished that she would remember us, but I thought that it was my wish of being important. She would forget us, and I thought it was good.
"Farewell, butterfly", I thought as I walked back to the bus.

I stepped in the bus, glanced at my seat, and remained standing. A deck of cards rested on my seat. I picked it up and sat down. "Alright, Chuck", I thought and fingered the cards. I whined, and shouted, "Hey guys, what kind of tricks did Chuck teach you?"
We had fun, and we laughed a lot. As the guys were about to leave, I said, "Arnold."
He sat down, and I said, "What is sorrow?"
Arnold said, "Sorrow is a place to die in shackles, and to be born again without them. In sorrow you say goodbye to the impossible and sometimes to the possible that just was not there."
"What is worry?"
"When you worry, you forge your own shackles", he said. "Every so often the sturdiest shackles bind you to things that once were within your reach, but now seem to be too far away. You forge yourself in them."
"But how can I stop worrying?"
Arnold sighed. "A part of you must die. You need to let go and cry until your shackles fall down. Then you will be free. You will be sad, but you will be free."
"How can I help someone who is worrying?"
"He must die in his shackles. Stay close to him, but do not forge yourself in his chains. If someone's candle is dead, do not extinguish your own. He needs another candle, but one that can light his flame."
I sat quiet for a while. Arnold was about to leave, but then he sighed, dropped his head and said, "I see that you care, and the more you care, the more shackles you will see. Do not bind yourself in them."

It was time for a break, and everyone else went out, except Ned the Nerd. He worked with his computer, and I hesitated to interrupt him, but anyway I walked to him and sat down. "What are you doing?", I asked.
"I am writing a program."
"What sort of a program?"
He explained, and he was enthusiastic about his thoughts. It seemed that he had an endless amount of ideas that he wanted to include.
His excitement made me curios. "Why do you do this?"
"The Great Spirit within me wants to sing. I am his voice, and when I type, I sing with him."
"But is it going to be good enough?"
"Yes, it already is. What I have done is good, and it flows like water. But the song is not yet complete. One day I know it is complete, and not a single note is missing."
"How do you know?"
"I just look at it, and know it is all there."
"What then?"
"Then," he said, "I am ready to die. I have sung my own song. I had my questions and answers, and I answered to every question I had."
"What do you do with the answers, and where do you find them?"
"They are all there", he said, pointing his PC. "When anyone uses this program, he does not think of questions or answers. He does his work, and he is free of asking any other questions. The program becomes a part of him, or he becomes a part of this program."
He stared out of the window. "A question well answered needs not be known. When my program is complete, it is so good that users will not be aware of the fact that they use a program. My song will become a part of every song done with this program, and my song will be silent in order to let other songs find their fullness."
"But where do the answers come from?" I asked.
He looked deep in my eyes. "You do not accept poor answers. Instead, you keep asking a question until you know it has been answered. Therefore, you knew the answer."
A cold shudder ran along my back. "Sam the Scientist, welcome home", I said to myself. I knew I would miss him. I stood up and walked slowly back to my seat but remained standing. Thick brown eyeglasses rested in the middle of my seat.
I placed them on my head and thought, "Sam, you knew."

Dave came in, sat beside me, and gave me an apple. "These are from my garden."
"How did you get your name?"
"My mama gave it to me, since I had big ears."
It was true. His ears were big, but I noticed it only after he had said it. "Does it bother you?", I asked.
"No. It bothered my mama, since I was not perfect according to her expectations. She felt like she had made a mistake, and that's why she gave me the name."
"Do you think that you are a mistake?"
He laughed. "No, but my mama was a mistake. One unimportant feature grasped her whole attention, and she thought that I felt the same way as she did. She never understood that it did not bother me. Actually, I was proud of my ears. Everyone remembered me."
"I learned much", he continued. "Everyone is a unique person, both on the outside and in the inside. The world is full of different types, and I enjoy watching them go by."
"Doesn't it make you crazy?", I asked.
"What do you mean? I like it."
"I mean, how can you understand them? What if you see something you don't like?"
He laughed. "Do you think I could understand them? Come on, man. It makes me free to be what I am. I have big ears, and I am merely one unique chap in the world of all kinds of caricatures and sketches. I belong here. Think how boring place the world would be if we all were similar and could understand everyone else. Some people wear leather jackets, some T-shirts and some dress in Christian Dior. I like it."
"But do you feel yourself accepted?"
"What do you mean?", he asked.
I was not sure what I meant. I did my best to clarify, and asked, "If someone in Christian Dior stands beside you, do you think that he accepts you in your shorts and T-shirt?"
"Do you mean, do I try to guess his attitudes towards me, or do I accept myself beside him?"
I hesitated, and finally said, "I guess I mean do you feel yourself uneasy with him?"
"Sometimes, when someone displays contempt, but it is his problem. He is not uneasy due to me, but due to his mind that does not fit into this world. He has a problem, which is his, and not mine."
"But don't you do anything to make him feel less uneasy?"
Dave was silent for a while, and asked, "Do you mean, do I make anything to make me feel less uneasy?"
He hit the mark. "Yes, I guess so."
"Yes," he said, "I laugh."

I understood that actually I did not want to please other people. When I pleased them, I wanted to please myself, to make myself more comfortable with someone. In the whole process, I only made myself so uneasy that I could not bear it any longer. I needed to learn to laugh to myself and to other people.
Charlie stepped in, waved his hand and said, "Alright guys, I leave now." He stepped close to me and said, "It is time for me to go."
I shook his hand, and said, "I think so."
Charlie looked deep in my eyes and said, "I will not forget you, and you will not forget me. You know I'll be back always when you need me, or when I need you."
"I know. And you know that you are my best friend."
He left, Pete stepped in and started the engine.

Alonso sat down beside me. "What is your dignity?"
"Do you fight for yourself?", he asked.
"What do you mean?"
"Do you own your place? When someone wants to take your place, what do you do? When someone pushes, what do you do? Do you have a direction, and do you follow it?"
I hesitated, since I was not sure what Alonso asked. "I don't like to fight against other people."
Alonso paused, and said, "If someone wants to take your place, you have two options. You can try to change him so that he does not want to take your seat, or you can refuse to give your place. If you try to change him, you try to control him, and you fight against him. If you keep your place, you do not fight against him, but for yourself."
I was puzzled. "I don't see any difference between them."
Alonso smiled. "If you keep your place, you do not try to change the other person. You accept him as one desiring to take your place, but you still refuse to give your place. You merely set limits on how you can be treated, and you show the other person that you have dignity that he is not allowed to spoil."
I thought of the words of Alonso, and he continued, "People will abuse you as much as you allow them to. What is your dignity?"
"I don't know. It is a strange word."
"Unless you know, you can not keep your place", Alonso sighed and left.
"Dignity", I thought, and then I thought of Carl the Clumsy. He was strong, and almost two feet taller than I. It was evident that he had power, and he was aware of it. Yet, he gave the impression of innocence, purity and compassion. He seemed to be satisfied and at peace with himself. I decided to talk to him during next break.
Pete had turned the radio on, and soft jazz created a relaxing atmosphere. I stared at the road, and allowed my thoughts to wander around.

The break came sooner than I thought. Pete stopped at a garage and said, "Alright, guys. We will have a break here. I will check the bus."
The garage was located by a small lake. The other guys went for coffee, but I and Carl walked to the lake. After a few minutes, we found a bench and sat down.
"How did you get your name", I asked.
"I gave it to myself. I don't know how to play with the words, and often I say something that other people misunderstand. I want to be good and honest, and kind towards all, but people are afraid of my large size and my power."
"What does it feel like?"
He smiled a peaceful and friendly smile. "It feels good. I am happy to be myself, and I understand the fear of other people in front of something that they know they can not control."
He looked deep into my eyes, and a cold shudder ran along my back. "Who are you, really?"
Carl looked at me, and his eyes became slightly moist. "I am your inner child."

As I returned, the other guys were already in the bus. Pete made some final checks, and when I walked to the bus, he stood beside the door. I stopped and said, "Pete."
He looked at me, as if he knew what I was about to say.
"I think it is my turn to drive."
"I think so, too."
He walked to the center of the bus, opened a compartment and took a large suitcase. "Shall I leave you some maps?", he asked.
"I think I don't need them", I said.
"No, you won't."
He climbed in the bus, and began to pack his maps and guidebooks. After closing his suitcase, he sat quietly for a while, letting his fingers run across the steering wheel, the instrument panel and the gear stick. He stepped out and shook my hand. "She is yours."
"What will you do?"
Pete smiled. "I will rest."
He lifted his suitcase, and I watched until he disappeared in the cafeteria.

I climbed in the bus, and remained standing. Pete's cap rested on the driver's seat. I picked it up and sat down. I turned the cap in my hands and fingered its sharp edges, staring into emptiness somewhere far away behind the windscreen.
As I placed the cap on my head, Alonso asked, "Where are we going to?"
"Home", I said.
"Where is it?", Hubert asked.
"Everywhere", I said and turned the key.


 Copyright Healing Eagle 2003