With the squirrel now gone, He sat alone. Silently, Hart convened with nature under her relaxed sky. She mused and offered billowed clouds as a measure of solace. The pastel colored tulips, brothers and sisters of pinks and reds, bobbed in rows, listening too to his thoughts. They swayed and rippled. Even the sprigs of cool wild lilac seemed to lend their lavender shoulders. He had slipped out of his boots and rolled cuffs into his denim pants. The grass was thick but without roughness or barbs.
He watched a bee moving along as if in a dream. It only gave attention and adoration to especially fragrant and bright flowers. Above him, a few birds could be heard warbling in the copse of the magnolia; the song and performance came direct from the pages of nature’s own play. Hart enjoyed the fare and he read along with a deft ear. He moved his toes like encroaching soldiers in the verdant turf and immediately began to feel better like a calm that comes to one after the acceptance of hard news.
Chatting idly, a couple passed along the way, perhaps taking a detour to the city that lay at the bottom of Booker Hill Park. At the sight of this shoeless, unshaven and peculiar man, looking at the sky, sprawled out along the bench, their conversation grew hushed. “Washington, D.C. is more conservative than you might expect…” He whistled between his teeth. His perspective and power wasn’t clear to a passerby or a friend because he kept it that way. It was evident enough to him. His outward appearance was maybe that of late twenties. He dressed in plain clothes but somehow, always seemed to stand out and draw attention. Hart appeared to be quite youthful but his mannerisms didn’t match his age. He moved slowly and spoke deliberately as though every word that came from his mouth had been purposefully drawn for a desired effect.
An unintended silence had pervaded as the couple walked towards him on the path; they had to fight their natural urge to set a queer eye in his direction. “Must be from out of town…” Hart smiled as their curiosity peaked. They glanced over to his direction despite of themselves. Hart noticed, smiled with one eye open, the other closed and nodded his head emphatically. They carried on just as they came, now passing Hart and taking to their course, slowly meandering down the tulip lined, redbrick path. “Good folks, good upbringing.” Hart chuckled and considered them as his eyes opened to follow the entwined figures, slowly descending and out of sight.Hart laughed suddenly, remembering the messy incident and the last group to pass by. That time it wasn’t awkward whispers or a hurrying by.
During that fantastic age of adolescences, ‘the illusion of invulnerability,’ as Hart called it, either plagued or embarrassed those having to carry its weight; to some, it emboldened ego, to others, it inspired foolishness, in the worst case, both. This group took gazing awkwardness to another level but still, Hart empathized- He couldn’t remember when he was at that age or if he ever was a victim of disillusion or vice a versa but he tried to observe everything with equanimity: “Perhaps I am just in some dream world, waiting to rouse from my slumber.”
This afternoon, as he was stretching before his nap, he could hear scoffing from across a hedgerow. A raucous youth had deemed Hart a worthy target. With his crew of equally young men, they hopped over a fence, demolishing a flowerbed. They took a few steps forward close enough to where he sat and established themselves immediately: they let fly taunts and insults meant to wound.
“Sometimes I enjoy a jest- it lends itself amusement,” Hart maintained, “…But their angle could use some polishing”. They attacked and tried to undermine him as a homeless vagrant. They gave Hart the other end of it, too with a potluck of tree-hugging and homosexual clichés.
Hart rolled his eyes; his shield was iron, his confidence unbreakable. He understood, “the best medicine in the world is that of laughter.” But there was no laughter to be had with this lot, so he extended the axiom to fit.
“…The next best medicine is discipline. ” He grinned to himself, “Funny is what it’ll be, discipline is what they’ll get.”
The most outspoken stepped up, “Hey, dumbass whatcha’ mumblin’ about, you drunk?”
Another shouted from the group, “You’re fucking up our park!”
Hart called softly, not looking at them, “Have you seen what you’re stepping on?”
The kid looked down at the trampled flowers and ivy and finishing a soda can, he dropped it then crushed it under his feet.
He shot back, “Well its our park and we can step on these flowers if we want- you don’t pay for em’, you fuckin’ slob!”
Hart surely passed for a vagrant or derelict at times but this he wasn’t-drifter perhaps, but not down and out; this was impossibility for a man of his talents. He considered his dress: a spotless though slightly wrinkled shirt and blue denim jeans without any holes or patches.
“My momma don’t do my washin’ boy, why don’t you go home and change you’re underwear before I make you shit your pants.” Hart began laughing to himself; he played along at their expense.
The group standing behind the aggressor snickered, “Ah, Shut the hell up!” He growled, “You want to start something, faggot or you wanna’ take a walk down to Dupont so I can tell all your friends how we’re gonna’ ruin your rainbow-lovin’ day?” Such jeers had no effect and to the vexation of the issuer, they landed without punch.
“Ease-up partner, it’s the 21st century we’re living in and my friends, in Dupont, would be equally upset if you ruined my day as I would be if you ruined there’s.”
“Wise guy, we’re gonna’ beat your ass stupid, right here.”
As he said this the 3 others stepped forward to join the ringleader.
“Look guys, I apologize, you’re a bunch of nice lads- you want an apple or share some of my sandwich?” He sat up and reached into his rucksack at his feet and proffered a green apple. The group looked incensed and was swearing menacingly as they began to approach Hart.
Meanwhile, Hart was unaffected and cutting an apple into slices. The motley crew took this unsheathed knife with suspicion and two stopped approaching.
“Hey man, this guy is out of his mind- I’m not about to be shanked.”
The other agreed and called up the ranks, “It aint’ worth it, Marcus, we’re in D.C. you don’t know how crazy fools are around here.” Hart stared at them emptily; his nonchalance unnerved them.
“…Those kid are bright.”