Listening Post #7: Mr. Nobody

The day I met Freddy was  a particularly wild day on Hagert Street. Annie, a terrifyingly young addict, was literally spinning around the street, crashing after a three-day high. In the midst of this, someone introduced me to Freddy, who has many names, and many reasons for having many names, For this story, he said it was OK to call him Frederick Tyson.

That first day, Freddy told me his name was Tyson, but sometimes, he said, when his spirits were low, he called himself Roman, and asked his friends to do the same. Why? “Because those Romans were strong, and I feel like maybe if I call myself Roman, I’ll feel strong too. And sometimes, it works, But really”, he continued, “my favorite name for myself is Nobody.” My face must have registered some form of dismay, because he quickly added, “No! No! That’s a good thing!” He explained that many years ago he was greatly impressed by a Western film titled “My Name Is Nobody”, starring Henry Fonda, It‘s about a man who traveled the Old West doing good deeds. And whenever the grateful citizenry asked him his name, he replied, ‘Nobody’. “And so,” Fred said, “I figure if you’re Nobody, you can just be whatever people need you to be.”

A few hours later, I saw Frederick Roman Tyson hurrying down the street, arms full of blankets and pillows. I asked what he was doing. “Look,” he gestured. Down the street, young Annie was circling a spot on the sidewalk, beginning to crash. “I know. I know, Freddy said. ”Annie’s just an addict. But even Annie shouldn’t have to sleep on the hard sidewalk.” And with that, he walked down the street, and made her a bed, right there on Hagert Street.

I call him Mr. Nobody now, and he takes it as the honorific it is. Imagine our world if all of us were free enough to be Nothing, to be Nobody. Just  people who notice the needs of our fellow creatures, and simply do what  is within our power to end the suffering.  That’s the world I want to live in.

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