Eugene (based on a true story)

1.

Let me make things clear right from the get-go. I’m not a believer.

I don’t believe in supernatural geezers with unkempt beards and such, even though I deeply respect religious liberty. Even if you’re a passionate parishioner of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and wear a colander instead of a hat, I promise that as long as you don’t try to hang spaghetti from my ears, I’m completely tolerant.

Well… actually, I don’t know why I started with this declaration. I wanted to tell you something quite different. I wanted to tell you about Eugene.

2.

I noticed him when I was going to my yoga class. I normally wouldn’t have paid attention to yet another beggar on the street if he hadn’t been busy with a pretty unusual thing.

Now, you could say, “Tati, what’s so unusual about needlework? Embroidery is no big deal.” Yes, I would agree if it had been my grandma at the local stitch club ‘Tweedle-Needle’, but not a messy, homeless vagrant sitting on the ground near a central mall—right on the passage between two crossroads. This guy looked absolutely canonical. Long dirty grey hair and beard, rags, a bag full of undefined stuff, a plastic cup with coins, and a frame with an art canvas.

I slowed down a little, but decided it wasn’t too polite to goggle at someone so openly. Even flotsam and jetsam have a right to privacy. So, I walked past, squinted at him, pretending that I didn’t care. In fairness, it must be said that he was so involved with his creative process that he would hardly have noticed me anyway.

3.

This man became my favorite scene on my way to yoga. Three times a week, I was passing near him and glancing furtively. I was feasting my eyes with him. I was seeing a flower-piece motif blooming in his hands, taking on its eventual colors and form. (By the way, he was embroidering with beads—I noticed this a bit later.) Also, I noticed his emaciation, the hampered movements of his hands, and a pair of crutches. As well as his funny hipster-like glasses with a pink rim.

As I was passing near him one day, I began to wonder where he had learned his craft, and how he’d gotten the beads and canvas and such… I then realized that he’d almost finished the picture, and I was risking losing the pleasure of seeing him create. The solution was obvious. I decided to buy him a set for beading.

4.

I stood before a shop display, looking like a cow gazing at a new gate. I’m not an experienced buyer of fancy stuff, you know. After some deliberation, I chose a portrait of some old man who reminded me of the vagrant. A label informed me that the man in the portrait was Sergius of Radonezh. Okay. I didn’t care what the vagrant would embroider. My only concern was to make sure he kept embroidering.

5.

“Good afternoon. I bought this for you. I hope you’ll like it.”

He didn’t react. Today he was busy with weaving love beads. A nearly empty cup with alms, like black sheep, stood right between the plastic cups filled with colorful beads and trinkets.

Up close, his angularity was more evident. My mind even made a strange connection with the image of a broken tree that had crooked twigs-hands and knobby roots-legs. The real Leshy right in the middle of downtown.

I repeated my message—a bit louder this time. He raised a blank stare toward me. Maybe he’d become estranged from people greeting him in a polite, formal way, but some moments later it dawned on him. His face broke into a nicked smile.

“Why, it’s Saint Nicholas!”

I didn’t see the principal difference, and so I nodded. Okay. Have it your own way.

He turned out to be an absolutely adequate human being, with clear speech, a nice smile, and kind grey eyes. He told me his name was Eugene and that he was homeless, but that he wasn’t an alcoholic or a drug-user—he was making and selling handicraft. I listened politely, waiting for a pause. When he reached out for a cardboard box with bracelets, I quickly murmured some excuses that I was running late for my yoga class, and ran away. I didn’t want him to start pressing his product line onto me. I didn’t need love beads. I just wanted to see how he embroidered when I was going to my yoga. That was all.

6.

After this, everything went on as usual. I was going, he was embroidering. I was passing near him without stopping. Sometimes he was absent—usually when the weather was rainy. Once or twice I saw him with, so to say, a ‘colleague’, a woman. They would sit on the ground together, just talking. She would be eating an ice cream, and I would instantly imagine how he’d buy sweets for his girlfriend—like a real homeless gentleman. Sometimes when I was approaching him, I would see how he’d lift up his face and look at the passersby as if he was seeking someone in the crowd… I would pass him again and again and never stop.

7.

One day, I was standing on the crossroad near this central mall. You know these idiotic double crossroads, what with their asynchronous traffic lights. You manage to cross one part, but before you reach the next part (if you’re not a world champion in the one hundred meter dash of course) the red light turns on. That’s why a bunch of people were hovering on this small patch with me that day, waiting for the green light, and leaking through slits of traffic with the more impatient pedestrians.

So, I stood on this crossroad in the middle of the crowd when someone twitched my sleeve. I turned and saw this woman—Eugene’s girlfriend. She had in her hands a plastic bag.

“Eugene asked me to give you this.”

I didn’t have time to say something. The crowd caught me up and carried me away.

8.

At home, I got the plastic bag out of my backpack and unfolded a piece of cloth. It was a finished portrait. The work looked very neat—bead-to-bead and stitch-to-stitch. Even its underside was tidy.

“Oh, what is this, Tati?”

Damn! Would grandma ever learn to knock before entering my room?

“It’s Saint Nicholas.”

She took the portrait and got her glasses out.

“Nope. It’s Sergius of Radonezh, Tati! He’s a patron of students. Nice work, by the way.”

I shrugged my shoulders. I never could understand how a person who’d spend half a day looking for her glasses (only to finally discover them on her forehead) could remember the names and occupations of a whole pantheon of gaffers.

“May I take this?”

I nodded indifferently and went back to my affairs.

The next day, I discovered that the portrait had been framed then left on my table. At first I took it away, but later changed my mind and put it back. I didn’t want to upset my grandma. The main thing was to not forget to hide it whenever my friends came round. They’d be sure to make a laughing-stock out of me.

9.

Since then, the portrait stands on my table. Forgive me, Sergius of Radonezh and Saint Nicholas, but I call it ‘Reverend Eugene, Vagrant and Embroiderer’. I’m not a believer. I don’t believe in supernatural geezers with unkempt beards and such.

But I do believe in people.

by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2017

124 thoughts on “Eugene (based on a true story)

  1. Hey, thanks for sharing. How often do we walk past feeling awkward? But connecting normally is past awkwardness. You behaved organically, it seems, to connect in a way that worked for all parties. Keep living creatively.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Dearest Tony & Tetiana,
    I feel very remiss in having missed this wonderful story about Eugene! As always I love this, like all you do/write/draw/podcast! You both always give us something to ponder which is ABSOLUTELY delightful!

    On Eugene: If I’m reading correctly “Eugene” is not actually among us in a physical sense? If so then my comment will make sense – and meant with all respect to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster as well as other faiths – if however I totally misread this, my humble apologies!

    Eugene Is “Alive”: Although in a sense even if he is ALIVE and you were talking about our societies over preoccupation with ourselves and our electronic gadgets – PLEASE my fellow humans! Put down your phones/pads/laptop/ipods/ and rejoin humanity! I realized the other day that it’s been years since I’ve even known who lives in the houses next to and across from me nor could I even tell you what they look like whereas growing up we knew the entire block and the cat lady 8 blocks over on the left! I haven’t gotten an actual letter in the mail in years, nor do I know the last time I’ve actually had a real live conversation with someone, ANYONE, not on the internet! I find this tragically sad. I love people, well most people, and I find myself starved for real live human interaction without using Skype or messenger, I’m talking a conversation, with a real, live, in the same room, person! So on that level I envy you this experience! But I digress!

    Eugene In His Next “Evolution”: If my first take was correct however, which also works here, I’ve this to offer albeit a bit jumbled! Oh and Apologies for yet another rambling dissertation! At any rate……

    Whilst I am not one to go around believing and/or claiming to speak with the dearly departed ect., I am a scientist after all, BUT in being so I can state this:
    You, me, Eugene, Bob the Penguin Photographer, Allen the Pika Counter, and Lily the Sea Otter Pup Brusher, are all made up of energy. To simplify – everything that makes you, you, is accomplished by electrical impulses whizzing around in your brain, with our frontal cortexes creating our personality, talents, likes, dislikes, you get the picture (which by the way happened when another electrical impulse whizzed through your brain allowing you to read this all the while screaming in silent agony at the screen “GET TO THE &$#%@/! POINT ALREADY FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS XENOMORPH!!!”) OK, OK!. So, basically, WE ARE ALL ENERGY! Yea! Why yea? Because:
    ENERGY CAN NEITHER BE CREATED NOR DESTROYED.
    It merely changes form. Therefore, at some point, we will all leave this “shell” we inhabit and move on/transform into something else. But, “death” as we call it, is only the end of the use of this shell. YOU, the energy that is YOU goes on, and on, and on…..you return from whece you came, the stars.
    Granted, that’s just my scientific take, overly simplified of course, but yes, “you” keep going – as does Eugene.

    Now, we could open this door over here with the sign that says this way to Quantum Physics – Multiverse Department (and in smaller letter benethe “Part of the Missing Sock Society & Bellybutton Lint Pondering Consortium”) OR even this door – Shrodinger’s Cat Box (and in smaller letter benethe “Please change litter on Thursday’s”) BUT seeing as the masses are starting to gather with torches and pitchforks, let’s just skip all of that alone for now!

    Oh, one final factoid though! After clinical death of ones body occurs? Your brain, that ENERGY I was talking about? Yeah, it keeps going for another 3 minutes! Cool huh?! Neato keen even.
    What does this ramble have to do with this? Just that everything makes sense and anything is possible! What one sees is subject to a whole host of things, cultural heritage, religious upbringing, personal morals and/or beliefs about the so to be hereafter, thereafter, and after-afterthat-afterness!

    But I digress yet again! My apologies! OMG SERIOUSLY I’m so sorry for this insanely long rambling comment! I can only blame this on what happens when I lose someone in the physical sense (which I did on the 2nd – the music, or more to the point the man responsible for said music, who I literally grew up with, tripped the light fantastic onto his next adventure, the hater, OKAY not a hater, but still, damn given my particular health situation I REALLY thought I’d be punching that big ticket first! So wow! Yeah celebrate the day my friends because you just never know!)!
    – Love, Light, Humanity, and Life, Lady Anne ^^ö^^
    P.S.(YES A PS! Lolol)Please join me on Patron supporting Tony & Tetiana with their Unbolt Me project! Fun extras, exciting graphics, great times, witty banter, and just a great project to help along!

    #LongLiveTonyAndTetiana #CelebrateLife #AllLivesMatter #PleaseUnbotMeFromTechnologyIJustWantToTalkToARealLivePerson #SmileWeWokeUpThisMorning #ChurchoftheFlyingSpaghettiMonster

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Lady Anne,

      You’re freaking awesome. I feel like Tati and I just got schooled in quantum mechanics and philosophy all at the same time. And we definitely agree with you. It’s scary how much humanity has become enslaved by smart devices. We’re trying not to think about the awful possibility that we’re living in the Matrix!

      Oh, and can we join you in the party where Love, Light, Humanity and Life are celebrated? We’ll bring the tunes and the attitude, and all the right dance moves too. Oh, and here’s a little link for you. We think you’ll get a kick out of Tati’s explanation behind the story of Eugene.

      #LadyAnneBoleynRocksHard #TheFlyingSpaghettiMonsterLovesPuddingCups #TatiAndTonyAreEnergyWaitingToMoveOnToOtherCoolAdventuresInSpaceAndTime #WeLoveHashtags

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Very sweet story of a truly real person. I love these stories of people who always ignite my hope in what it means to be truly human. Stories are kept going by the passerby who writes them … it’s just so important!

    Liked by 4 people

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