Death gives value to each passing moment. The closer the final conclusion draws, the more value is given to each moment.
That value was stolen from me. My death is non-existent. My moments are worth nothing.
I lazily woke up on a bench in a busy city. I forgot which one. I’ve come to learn that most things are unimportant, especially which city you’re in. Inspecting my body revealed that I was overdue for a shower. Then I laughed, overdue according to who?
Perhaps I’ve become too skilled at being alone. Perhaps had I been less isolated things would have gone differently. Instead, I sit here alone.
I brushed off the dirt that had accrued and tried to gain my footing. I stumbled, showing me that I was clearly still drunk.
Water. I needed water. Okay, need was a stretch, I wanted water. It’d make things a bit more comfortable. I looked around and noticed a gas station across the street. Half walking, half stumbling, I walked to the gas station. Were I a normal alcoholic, I would’ve had to deal with the morning shakes.
I was met with a stern stare from the large woman behind the counter as I entered the gas station. She was right to judge me; I was going to blatantly steal. I picked up two large gallons of water and walked right out, with her gaze following me the entire way.
Throughout all the millennia, throughout all the vast riches, throughout the different paths I’ve walked, I’ve learned one thing: the greatest superpower one can have is to not have an identity.
I kept walking back to my bench where I consumed my water joyously.
I should’ve grabbed some food. As I discovered in India a few thousand years ago, I don’t need to eat. Yet, I enjoy it.
The police pulled up to the gas station across the street. Wow, the large lady involved the police over two gallons of water. I could make a run for it, but what’s the point? I have my greatest superpower on my side. After a few moments, the police came outside and started walking my direction. I remained seated and comfortable.
“Sir, did you steal two gallons of water from that gas station across the street?”
It was clear they weren’t expecting that.
“Well, uhm, do you have your ID on you?”
“What’s your name?”
“People know me by many names.”
One of the officers crossed his arms, a classic sign of agitation.
“Sir, I won’t ask you again, what is your name?”
“You can call me Lao.”
“Lao, do you have any form of ID on you?”
“No.” I repeated.
“Alright, sir, you’re under arrest for suspicion of shoplifting. We’ll fingerprint you at the station and figure out who you really are.”
I said nothing. They put in my hand cuffs and walked me across the street. I sat silently in the back of their car until we reached the police station. This was turning out to be a fun day!
“Please state your full name for the record.” Said the booking clerk.
“Very funny, what’s your real name?”
“Lao Tzu is my real name. At least that’s the first name that I remember.”
“I’m not putting Lao Tzu on this form. What’s your real name?”
“Should I say it slower? Lao. Tzu.”
The booking clerk’s face was flushed and her eyes looked like they were about to pop out of her head.
“Sergeant!” She shouted down the hall. After a few moments, a heavyset man with a crew cut and small glasses walked up.
“What’s the problem here?”
“This perp has no ID and says his name is Lao Tzu.”
“Isn’t that a Japanese philosopher or something.”
“Chinese.” I interjected.
“Well, you don’t look Chinese to me. Let’s just fingerprint him and run it against the database.”
It didn’t take them long to realize that I didn’t have fingerprints.
“Look here son, you’re only under arrest for petty shoplifting. Cooperate with us, tell us who you are. You’ll get a slap on the wrist and you’ll have your freedom.” Said the heavyset man.
“I am being honest with you. My name is Lao Tzu. I have no ID and no fingerprints.” That wasn’t what they wanted to hear.
“Lock him in the drunk tank. And hose him down, he reeks.” Said the heavyset man before walking away.
I appreciated the shower and was content with my jail cell. I wasn’t alone, so that was a nice change of pace.
Three other men occupied the same cell. We sat along the concrete benches with sparse eye contact being made. While others avoided it, I’ll take every bit of eye contact that I can get. It is the temporary union of two souls, and I rejoice in it. One of the men in the cell did not share my affinity for it, however.
“Whatcha lookin’ at?” Said a large man with pale skin, a shaved head and a rambunctious beard.
He stood up immediately. I don’t think he was expecting a response. We were seated across the cell from each other, but that made us less than six feet away. Within a few strides of his long, stilt-like legs, he was towering over me.
“May I help you with anything?” I said.
He didn’t like that, either. He grabbed me by my dirty shirt and held me up against wall.
“I dun’t like ya.” He stammered.
“I’m sorry about that.” I replied with a smile.
Without another word, he cocked his fist. Suddenly, I was faced with a choice: absorb the blow, or disarm him. I spent several hundred years in China instituting systems of unarmed combat, so I could easily dispatch him. However, I knew the cops wouldn’t appreciate a fight in the drunk tank. I opted to absorb the blow.
His fist connected, but the damage was nonexistent. I’m still a victim of physics, but I’ve never seen myself bleed.
The large man looked confused.
“Are you done?” I asked.
He set me down, backed away and looked at his bloody fist. I didn’t need a mirror to know that my face looked exactly the same as it did before.
Hours passed. Nobody else’s eyes met mine. My heart sunk, and I wished the man never hit me. It’s been a few years since I was in such close proximity to other people.
Eventually, the electronic seal was opened with an alarming buzz, and one of the officers motioned for me to follow them. I was taken to another room where I was handcuffed to a table. I was in there for an hour before an officer walked in. He wore the standard police uniform and carried with him a manilla folder. His face slunk down to his knees, and I wished he would take a nap.
“You’re in here for a petty crime that we don’t really care about. We do, however, care about why you don’t have any finger prints. Care to explain?”
“Is it against the law to not have fingerprints?” I inquired.
“Then I’m afraid I won’t be answering your question.”
His sunken face sprung to life with a series of twists and tangles. I could hear his breathing accelerate. Minutes passed, or maybe it was hours. My ability to measure time is off kilter.
“Well then, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to give you a ticket and a court date for your shoplifting offense. We’re going to put some damn ink on your fingers and put those on record, even if they’re smooth. Then, we’re going to drop you off at the MVD to obtain an ID card.”
With that, the officer uncuffed me and carried out his plan. I went through the motions with a smile and a heart full of gratitude that I was spending time with someone. When we reached the MVD and they let me out of the car, I walked inside. Once the police officer left, I walked right back outside. I threw the ticket away in the trash, and I walked away.
I walked to the next city. Then to the next country. Then to the next continent. I walked until something gave me a compelling reason to stop.
She sure had pretty eyes.