Shift 6: Squatter

I been hanging out with Yuki. I like her style.

She told me she likes my style. I’m not surprised. I was wearing one of my new vests and the scarf I got from the free box. Like I said: Swanky.


When I talk with Yuki, I forget everything. She gets me laughing so hard, and next thing I know, I feel like I’m a regular kid and we’re out after curfew on a school night.


She always says something goofy when she leaves, like, “Toodles.” Or once she said, “Jaa mata,” like they say in anime.

God, I wish there was a TV and DVR in the lounge. It would be so awesome to watch anime with her on a Saturday afternoon.

As it is, we catch pieces of stuff on her phone or on my tablet. That’s fun, too, because we get to lean in together and watch the video like we’re both in the same tiny world.

And maybe we are both in the same tiny world. It’s just that sometimes she leaves it to go back to her big world, and then I leave to go to mine…


My world feels both tiny and vast. It’s tiny because it only extends as far as I walk or run: The visitor’s center, my camp, the trails all around, that district nearby with Deon’s spa and the tapas bar. That’s the extent of it.

It’s vast because it’s nowhere. I live nowhere. I don’t really live here–I’m just staying here before I shift on. I live nowhere and everywhere. That’s how vast it is.

I got a scare the other day that it was time for me to shift.

I got back to camp from hanging out late with Yuki, and there was an old guy sleeping in my cot.


I freaked. I thought it must be that guy whose camp this is who returns every winter. It’s getting on towards winter, late fall, anyway. I guess I’ve been halfway expecting him to return anytime. I don’t think this park’s big enough for two homeless people to camp here. So I always figured when he returned from up north, I’d head on. I don’t know where. Somewhere. It’s his camp, after all.

I slept in the lounge that night.

Next morning, I told Deon that the old guy had come back. He said he didn’t think so. Usually the guy came back a lot earlier, like in the middle of October. He was so late, Deon had started thinking he might not make it this year. He asked me to describe the guy to him. Tall. Skinny. Long gray hair.

Wasn’t him. Deon’s old guy is short, stocky, Asian, crew cut.

That afternoon, I saw the guy who’d slept in my cot. I got to talking with him.

Turns out he’s a rich guy who lives on an island. But now and then, he runs away from home, just goes roaming for a while, until he gets the vagabond out of his system, and then he calls up his kids and asks them to come pick him up or wire him money for the train ride back.


His daughter was on he way to pick him up now.

And that meant, if it wasn’t him, then I’d get to stay here a little longer.

I found myself feeling grateful that the old guy hadn’t come back. And then I realized I was feeling grateful for what might be somebody else’s misfortune. That won’t do.


Just take it for today. Just be thankful for today. I let it go, all those thanks. I’m not making plans. That old guy comes back to his camp, and I’m outta here, thankful for the time I got to stay, and no begrudging. Just gratitude.

That old guy doesn’t come back, and it’s grace. It’s a gift.

How do you accept a gift? For just what it is and nothing more.

That’s life. Just what it is. Nothing more. Which means it’s everything.

I ran into one of Deon’s friends from the tapas bar. He was fishing.

“Catch anything?” I asked him.

“Nope,” he said. “Never do.”

He looked like he was having the time of his life.


I slept in the camp that night, and it felt as good as a dream.

When I woke up–OK, I woke up late. I can sleep in. It’s not like I got to do anything during the day–when I woke up, I found a note on my cooler.

“There’s a treat inside for you, Jazzie Joo!” It was signed by Deon.

I opened up the cooler. There under a bag of ice was a carton of yogurt and a basket of strawberries. Deon had even left me a clean bowl and spoon.

Man, breakfast that morning was the sweetest thing.


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