It’s moving day. This place no longer needs me, for it can now grow into its destiny on its own. I’ve dug the holes, planted the seeds, fertilized, and tended it as long as I must. This hermit crab has outgrown his shell. Not rejected, but ready to move on. For something else to take shelter here, while I move on to the next phase of my journey.

Back to the city. Back to Canal Street. Down along the shore beneath the bridge where Ventricular Avenue crosses the East Bay Canal. I spied the location on my last trip here. The trip where the key found me. A twinkle of broken glass reflected the headlight of a passing car, beckoning me like a guiding star. I resisted its pull then, but I can resist it no longer. For this is the place where I must set camp.

Abandon all that I’ve known and embrace the great unknown. For fear dies when we let go all that has held us in place. And the next step on a journey becomes not one approached with trepidation, but instead one approached with simple acceptance when the truth that life takes us where we need to go is accepted.

Under the bridge downtown. I did not draw blood.

But I did give my life away.

Marcy is gone now. I left her behind in the house as I left, and as I left, I believe she faded.

Because she was not my destiny, but instead just another space on the board. I’ve rolled again, and this time I’ve gotten snake eyes.

Roll them again and trouble may brew.

Roll them a third time, and that’ll be the end.

But that is neither here nor there, for the next roll is still somewhere in the distance. I’ve just started this turn, and I know not how many moves I’ll get until the turn is over.

On the bridge, in the dead of night, as the bars close and the last vestiges of life venture home, I take residence. Demanding payment. A toll from those who desire passage.

I do not accept money. I will refuse a gift of food.

I am no beggar, for I am a chooser.

And I choose the toll.

Thirty seconds of connection.

Thirty seconds of eye contact.

Give me that, and you shall pass.

And I gather those payments and pack them away in the collection bin in my mind. Blues and greys. Greens and browns. Tears and joy and fear.

This is not my penance but is instead my charging station. Gather and collect and reflect and exist while life goes on on the streets above.

Forty days and forty nights, here beneath the bridge. Coming up to surface each night to collect my toll.

Food will find me. The city sustains me, for it is my guide now. It is my Marcy.

On the 37th day the police day, the police came for me. On the 37th day my time was up. That left me with my remainder of three.

Three Van Neal’s still exist. Her obituary tells me so.

Or they did exist at the time she left. Forty-four years old as she left the world in 1997, leaving three orphaned children behind.

Greg. Carla. Little Ben.

They are children no more.

6625 Sundance Drive

1950 Parapet Way

4778 Brewery Road

Three moves left this turn.

Forty-four and three is forty-seven.

Forty-seven from 1997 is 1950.

A low protective wall along the edge of a roof, bridge, or balcony.

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