The Wood Building on Kearny Avenue is made of concrete with four stone griffins on perpetual watch at each corner. After the rain their drilled pupils pool with water as if their stone hearts had been broken open by the ancient sense of petrichor rising from the streets. People in shades of black rush out of the Wood Building towards their savior, Mass Transit. A homeless man sits shrouded and hunched in damp eggshell robes on a bright blue seat behind a muni map, his feet bound in rags up to his shins. At first glance it seems no part of him is exposed. He is the color of whale’s breath. His ankles are wider than his calves, separating the rags with a purple edged yearning. He is fixed and unmoving like Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows, trapped in a glass grotto muni stop. The bus deposits and expels people twenty feet before the marked stop in front of the corner griffins to avoid the smell of ammonia being trapped inside its wheeled capsule. No one looks directly at him while they wait but his presence fills every crack. This has been going on longer than time. He is present by a glow in the periphery, a life form inside the wet glass, facelessly breathing. He has no ability to walk, no where to walk, no means to be anywhere else. The precision of coming and going has left him his humble dignity, a place to sit unknown in gathered robes, shining in the tears of griffins.
I don’t know how many times I walked past him in those many years in San Francisco. I once took a seat at Starbucks directly behind him as he sat ignored in the glass square just to watch him sit. We sat together and apart, mergings of differences and unity. I breathed with him. I observed others not see him with valiant effort and felt my shame. Over time his hunch was hunchier, and it appeared that someone had given him new blankets. He sat unmolested, deeply unperturbed, reeking of urine. His ankles grew a deeper color of scaly purple each day. Each day on my way to work I looked for him, thinking of him as the muni grew closer to my stop. I feared that one day he would no longer be there. I knew in my bones that everyone else that walked that way in shades of black felt the same way.
One day while looking for a long meditation wrap I found a set of robes that looked exactly like his, only fresh and ecru new. In the morning upon my zafu, I untie tits satin ribbon and unroll the robes slowly and think of him. They are carefully bound after every meditation with Lavender sachets from France, a gift from a wealthy boss in Wood Building. I carefully stack each sachet as I unroll the robes and let their earthy scent fill my lungs. My robes are perfumed with fine lavender from France, and his with the essence of his sorrow. As I arrange myself on the cushion, I remember the dignity of his form and find my own. I breathe into the shame of a million kalpas and feel the transparency of love, the power of seeing just one tear completely. I feel how every liquid orb of a teardrop is imbued with the clouds, passing from world to world with fragility and enduring love. He is with me on the cushion reminding me to sit up straight. Don’t waste time looking for the dharma, just sit up straight and breathe. There is nothing to want.