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A Walled-in Life

"Sir, you have to go."

The middle aged man stirred on the bench outside the drug store.

"Go? Go where?" he asked.

"Home, sir. You can't stay here," the man said firmly, but trying to be kind. He carried no gun or night stick; the red SECURITY tag was enough.

"I can't. I have no place to go."

The security guard looked at him compassionately and said, "Sir, I can get you some help. What's your name?"


"That's your last name?"

Martin nodded.

"Okay, Mr. Martin. Where are you from?"

"I live here."

"That's what we've figured out," the security guard said, now joined by two others. "But you can't live here."

"But you're 24/7?"

"Yeah, but you can't stay here around the clock."

"But you have everything I need, everything I want. Why would I go any place else?"

The security guards looked at one another, a bit perplexed.

Martin continued, "Food, bathrooms, clothing, entertainment."

"That's right," the security guard tried to interject, "but . . .".

Martin rambled, "I thought you wanted me here all the time. I thought I was doing what I was supposed to do."

Martin began to get jittery. "I don't know where else to go. You give me everything, even friends. The guy who hands me the cart when I come in. He's my friend."

"Okay," the security guard said, seeing an opportunity. "When you come in and meet your friend, where are you coming from?"

"The parking lot."

"Yes, but before that. Where do you come from before you get to the parking lot?"

"I don't understand," Martin said, shaking his head.

"Look, Mr. Martin," the security guard said, a little more firmly, "When you come here, you drive from someplace. Where do you drive from?"

"I don't drive," Martin said.

"Then how do you get here?" the security guard said, getting exasperated.

"I live here," Martin said.

"You live in the parking lot?" the security guard said.

"I live here, in this building. I sleep in the parking lot, in my car. But this is my home, this store."

The security guards looked around them. A small crowd was gathering in front of the cash registers, which were only a few yards from the bench. All the merchants were coming to the front of their hollows to look: the optometrist, the cook, the video rental clerk, the pharmacist.

The security guard was getting uncomfortable. "Mr. Martin, you're loitering. You have to leave now," he said, firmly pulling his arm.

Martin started to weep. "Please, no. I have no place to go. I have money. I can pay. You have everything. You must have a loitering store, too. Let me go there. I'll pay you to loiter. I thought that was the deal: As long as I can pay, you'd take care of all my needs. I came here. I rejected all–house, family, pursuits, travel–to be here, where all my needs are met and nothing and nobody else is needed. Please let me say."

Martin was on his knees, begging. A large crowd was assembled. The police from town had arrived.

"Please," Martin wailed, seeing the police. "I even changed my name, just so you'd like me. It used to be 'John,' but I changed it to Wally."

"Wally Martin, that's your name?" the guard asked, visibly shaken.

"Yeah," Martin said, smiling through his tears. "Isn't it beautiful?"