The sun had just begun to burn off the early morning haze as I entered the city limits. Like any tourist, I wanted to visit the town's shops and historical landmarks. Yet I felt compelled to find a city park or some quiet place to park my van and ponder upon what I recently heard from a friend. I spent the next two days discovering my divinity by examining the innermost wilderness of my mind. My investigation was so exciting and captivating that I ate only when necessary and all sightseeing was forgotten for two days. Now hungry and ready for a change of pace, I began looking for a place to eat. For some unknown reason, I decided to walk rather than drive.
As I approached the edge of the park, I noticed an elderly man sitting alone on a park bench. By now I could also see a small restaurant about a block away. But, to my amazement, I was walking towards the fellow seated on the park bench rather than towards what I presently desired most ó food.
It has never been a practice of mine to engage in conversation with strangers, particularly with those who looked like a tramp. Yet, I was reluctantly walking towards the park bench. "This is crazy," I thought. "I am hungry! He'll probably ask me for money, like most tramps do. Heck, I hardly have enough money to feed myself, let alone assist some stranger to buy a bottle. What am I doing? Why am I even here?"
His clothes, although clean, were outdated and frayed. The colour and style of his socks clashed with his brown Oxfords. His whole attire reminded me of the men I saw hanging around the railroad yards when I was a child during the depression. His wrinkled face revealed much character and belied my original image of him. As I gazed upon his deeply creviced and stubbly face, I wondered how he shaved without cutting himself. Beside him on the park bench were the remains of what appeared to have been his meal: a banana peel, a ring from a piece of bologna, some bread crumbs and a brown bag.
He never said a word as I sat down beside him. It was only after I said "good morning" that he acknowledged my presence. He spoke so softly that I had to lean my head closer to hear his words. He then asked me where I was from and why I was here. "I've been examining my divinity and searching for God," I blurted out to my amazement. "Where have you been looking for Him and did you find Him?" he responded. "I have visited different churches and places of worship throughout the United States, but none have fulfilled the need that compelled me to begin my search. I feel I came the closest to God last night when I was wondering in the wilderness of my mind," I replied. I couldn't believe I told him that. "Why?" I wondered.
"Do you read the Bible?" he asked. With some hesitance, I said: "I have not found my answers there either." "What you must understand, my child, is that the Bible does not tell the whole story. It is for the same reason that you cannot find God in any place of worship. Yet, you have found what you seek and do not know it. You do not see this for it is concealed by images your mind has created," he responded. "Allow me to explain what I mean and you will see why man has great difficulty discovering his divinity and finding God." This gentle man then started talking about the life of the man we know as Jesus. With great detail, he described what life was like during those times, how the people responded to Jesus, and about Jesus's apostles.
Although it was a warm sunny day, cold shivers went down my spine and my body was covered with goose bumps as my mind clung to every word this amazing individual said. He spoke of things that no man on earth could possibly know. Some of what he said was exactly the same thing a friend had told me previously. It was the very same thing that prompted me to seek a quiet resting place on my arrival so I could sort out my confused mind. Now I was hearing it again, from a most unlikely and unusual source. I could feel my heart race and beat against my chest. Had I gone mad? I didn't know whether to run or stay. In a fleeting second, thousands of questions raced through my mind. "You're deep in thought. Maybe I talk too much." "Oh, no! Please continue," I quickly responded. My strange companion merely looked at his watch and said: "The bus should be by any minute. By the way, what do you think of my watch?"
Wanting to hear more of what he had to say, I responded by trying to appease him, without even looking at the watch. Then he tapped the watch's crystal with his finger and said: "How do you like my watch?" As I gazed upon the watch, I really couldn't see anything special about it. It was old, just like everything else he was wearing. I wasn't interested in his watch, I wanted to hear more. Then he turned his wrist so I could see the palm of his hand. My mind wanted to reject what my eyes were seeing. From somewhere deep within me came a cry: "Oh my God!" The tears that followed seemed so very old.
"Don't cry, my child," was all he said as he gently touched my shoulder. Slowly, I regained my composure. It was as if my tears had washed away all my earlier fears. From within my heart, I sensed a warm peace and an instant recognition of who I was talking to that was stronger and more assured than my questioning mind.
He continued his conversation with me, informing me of times when we had previously met. Once as a little oriental woman at a flea market and again as a young man, dressed in jeans, waiting in line together at a small California grocery store. Once again my entire body was covered with goose bumps. He then explained to me that if I pay close attention to my body's responses, such as goose bumps, I can see how my body confirms "truth".
"Why didn't you make yourself known to me then?" I asked. "I am a very cautious man. I have to be for obvious reasons. Most are not psychologically or spiritually prepared to meet me. It wasn't the proper time or place to make myself known to you then. But, you need not fear, you'll meet me again. I will show up when you least expect me for I have an important task for you to perform," he said.
Before I could ask him to explain himself, the bus pulled up in front of us. Spontaneously, we rose. I put my arms around him and kissed him. It was no apparition for it was a warm body that I hugged and a bristled cheek that I kissed. Even the bus-driver saw him for he called out: "Are you getting on board? I don't have all day!" Again my mind was preoccupied with questions. So much so, that I didn't see him pay the bus-driver. Upon sitting down, he waved to me. Yet as the bus turned the corner, I couldn't see anyone on the bus, except the driver. Dumbfounded, I sat back down on the park bench. It was then that I noticed that even the remains of my friend's meal had disappeared also.
In a daze, I returned to my van. As I headed towards the freeway to begin my journey home, I wondered if it had all been a figment of my imagination; or worse yet, was I going crazy? I reviewed the scene in the park over and over in my mind in search of some answer to my mystery. I had always been a level-headed person, regarded as normal by social standards, but what I had just experienced was not normal! "Is there really a 'Twilight Zone and had I experienced it?' I wondered. Since this event, I have met him again. At the end of March 1997*, I will be travelling the US and abroad, talking about what he has asked me to talk about.
David Zimmer, USA.