Something happened at the park last night. Without any interpretation, here it is:
We were four people sitting on the grassy hill of Parc LaFontaine, talking about regular things, books, life, the absurdity of existence. The conversation was sweetened by the pineapple-basil-flavored ice cream that we picked up from a nearby shop.
Alongside us, on the hills, were groups of young people enjoying their Saturday night as well. The grassy whiff of marijuana filled the air. Not everyone was into ice cream.
Below us, closer to the lake’s edge, garbage dotted the grass surrounding the trashcans. The litter was scattered by people who had enough energy to walk to the trashcan but not enough dedication to put their waste inside it. In short, the condition of the lake’s edge was an embarrassment to civilization. But then,
Out of the darkness in the distance emerged the figure of an older man; a 60-something year old man in a short black t-shirt exposing his stomach and waist, as well as tight jeans rolled up to just below his knees. A geriatric renegade, to be as precise as possible. He carried a backpack and wore black slippers.
From the dark shadows in the distance, this grandfatherly man approached the garbage can. Upon reaching the littered grass, he kicked off (yes, literally kicked off) his slippers onto the hill and began collecting the garbage from the vicinity.
His moves were very fluid, as if he were performing. But it was a performance. It was. As soon as he piled the waste into the trashcan, he began punching it in order to reduce its size. The punches were timed and almost artistic; rapid, precise, and disciplined.
But that’s not all. This man was a ninja! As soon as he had put all the debris in its place, he began practicing some form of martial art. He began kicking and punching the air. Some invisible foe from his younger years maybe? His age kept him from kicking higher, or punching farther, but in his mind he was a beautiful, elegant sensei. You could sense his firm belief in himself.
He then got onto the ground to perform pushups. At this point, I was feeling a mixture of awe and pity. A mélange of feelings passed through me. Lots of questions. Who is this guy? What is he thinking? Is he sane? Where are his children? Is he dangerous to himself?
But this was the same man who walked the park putting away garbage. He was the manifestation of an older generation that hasn’t given up on its humanity, its dedication to society, and its love for the environment. Maybe I gave him more that he’s worth. Maybe he was just a little cuckoo or something. But to me, this man was as awesome, inspiring, and marvelous as any superhero I’ve ever admired. He was real. He jumped out of some comic book, or out of some memory in my mind, and made himself real.
After his pushups, (way more pushups than I could have done, honestly,) he picked up his backpack, put on his slippers, and walked away. He walked to the next trashcan, a few hundred steps away, and repeated his philanthropic madness.
We got up to leave, as it was getting late. Every few steps I would turn around to look back at the old man; the fit old man, the crazy old man, wondering if he was a figment of my imagination. I went home with way too many questions.
I hope I run into him some time soon. I want to know what he has in his backpack.