I sit on a wooden bench in the north park blocks and watch the people stroll by. It is warm and sunny, people have left their buildings and apartments to enjoy the day. In front of me is a girl with a very short red skirt and raver chic pink hair. PSU student types, carrying plastic bags full of berries they just bought at the farmers market farther up the blocks, wander back to the campus. Two well dressed women, one very pregnant, walk by speaking French as a man in a motorized wheel chair zooms by in the opposite direction. A hip couple sits on the bench directly across from me, his arm casually around her shoulders. Every time I look up, they seem to look up also, and I can't tell if they are watching me watch them or if it's the other way around. Pigeons peck at the grass and scatter when a man in a gray tweed jacket and an unbuttoned dress shirt walks two fluffy little dogs along the path that runs down the length of the blocks. The little dogs have better, and probably more expensive, haircuts than I have.
The homeless looking man sits farther down the block. I see him almost everyday somewhere in this area. He has a half-dozen paper and plastic bags scattered on the bench and ground near him. He is dressed in shorts and his hair is wild and unkempt. His clothes aren't torn or dirty but they have a ragged, worn-out look to them. He wears glasses with thick plastic frames and the right lens is covered with what looks like masking tape, making it impossible to see what lies behind it. In my mind, I have dubbed him the Cyclops. He never asks for money but always just sits on a bench and, like everyone else, watches the people stroll by.
A pack of young, tough looking kids in torn black shirts and thick metal chains wander up the path, a cloud of smoke trailing and swearwords swirling and dispersing behind them. If the Outsiders had been written in this decade, the film version would use this gang as their protagonists. They are the disenfranchised youth, those high school kids who have no use for the culture around them. So they have formed their own society with their own rules and the city is their freedom, at least for the summer.
The Cyclops with his wild hair and covered eye turns his head my way as he watches them and for a moment our three eyes meet. In his expression, I see both sadness and acknowledgement. Although I blend into the background stream of office people on the park blocks perhaps I have walked by him enough times that he recognizes me.
And for a second, I know him.
He is the Cyclops, giant king of an island, who tended to his giant goats and ate the occasional shipwrecked sailor that washed up on his island's rocky shores. He towered above the land, those in his shadow often thought the sun had gone out and he was feared and respected by all who met him. Brave hearted warriors and legendary heroes cried and begged him not to eat them and sometimes he listened. Most of the time, he didn't.
But somewhere along the way, the world moved on, the islands sank and the cities spread. The world grew, or perhaps he shrank, and now he sits on park benches and people pretend not to notice him.
As our eyes meet, I give him a brief nod that he does not acknowledge. He turns his head back to the grocery bags scattered around him, a small flock of plastic and paper, and begins to gather them up. He takes his bags and collects the sadness that I see in him, that I have always seen in him, and wanders farther up the blocks in search of a new kingdom.