I’ve seen him many times over the years. The man who lives outside.
I used to see him at remote beach locations where he would wander out from the trees, mostly naked but for a wrap that covered one shoulder and his legs. There was an era when his clothes were made from coconut fiber that he had sown into a kind of male sari.
If I had to guess an age, I’d say he’s in his twenties, though he seems rather timeless. A bushy golden beard. Tanned skin from the sun. He hardly speaks. He seems to live on air and spring water. I’ve seen him clutch a coconut that he found on a wild beachside tree. One time my friend said that he showed her the wild honeycomb he’d discovered and harvested up on a cliffside.
Long gaps of time will pass between sightings of the man who lives outside. He stands apart from the hippies hitchhiking on the highway or the campers on food stamps, drinking beers at the beach parks. He is a loner. A unique mystery. He reminds me of an Indian sadhu, though unusual in this tropical setting.
I haven’t seen him in at least a year.
And then yesterday, I was driving home. The pressure of a work deadline was tightening in my chest as my mind turned at the end of a full day. Strategies spun as to how I would squeeze in two more hours of work before picking up Jeb, making dinner, getting homework done and getting him in the shower before bed time. Anxiety was building in my body, unnoticed. African Tulip trees bowed, roadside, as I passed, but I did not see.
But there was no way I could not see him. He was barefoot – as usual – running on the highway’s edge. With the one-shouldered wrap of a monk, he had tucked a single piece of Buddhist red cotton across his body. His jog was spry and buoyant. He was not running from anything. He was moving in a free and easy gait. He was the joy of movement embodied.
Nearly naked, barefoot, bright red, alive. Free. Traveling so light, he had nothing.
And there was me. Passing by at 60 miles per hour, exhaust in my wake. I was gifted one glimpse of an apparition. One sighting of a being, here, but not of this world. As I took in one last look in my rear view mirror, I wondered how he sees this place. How he lives his days. What secrets has he been shown?
A blazing, red-running signpost pulled me out of tunnel vision. Reminded of the unseen magic, ever-present. There are many ways to live this life. Many ways to see this world.
He was my messenger at highway speed. This man who lives outside.