Once, while on vacation in Hawaii, I was approached by a blind Asian man. He stepped right in front of me as I was walking through an outdoor market, so I had to stop short to keep from running him over. His eyes were an unnatural shade of transparent gray and it took me a second to realize he wasn’t looking directly at me but somewhere over my shoulder, as if there was something out there only he could see.
“Hello,” he said, giving me a toothless grin that made me think of a baby. Even in the heat, he wore a faded, long-sleeved red robe with a belt that hung loosely around his waist, and a satchel across his chest.
“Hi.” I glanced down at the ground, forgetting for a moment that he was blind and wouldn’t know I was staring. I tried to step around him, but he mirrored my movements and blocked my path. I cleared my throat. “Excuse me.”
“You’re excused,” the man said, his mouth stretching wider as though we had just shared a private joke.
“Can I help you with something?”
The man doubled over as his body shook with silent laughter. I looked around for Russ and Ken, sure my friends were paying me back for being such a crappy travel companion. As soon as we parked our bikes, they headed to the nearest bar, leaving me to explore on my own. I couldn’t blame them. I didn’t really want to be around me either. Still, using a handicapped man to get to me was a new low, even for them.
“Alright, where are they?”
“Where are who?”
“My friends,” I said. “The ones that put you up to this.”
The man righted himself and folded his hands over his belt. “Ah. It is more shameful to distrust our friends than to be deceived by them.” When I said nothing, he shrugged. “Confucius.”
“Well, Confucius never met my friends.”
I started to walk past him again, but the man shifted once more. “What’s your hurry?”
“I have to…” I stopped. What was my hurry? I didn’t have to do anything. I hadn’t done a damn thing for months. I glanced over my shoulder at the beach a few yards away. “It’s almost sunset.”
The man tilted his chin toward the sun. “That it is.” He looked back at me. “Can you spare a minute for an old man?”
The sky was just beginning to change color, but the sun was still warm. I wanted nothing more than to lie on the sand and burn until it disappeared. I squeezed my eyes shut, sure I would regret what I was about to do.
“Sure,” I said, letting out a breath. “Do you need to go somewhere?”
“I will end up somewhere, as something, I’m sure. When I die, I will be reincarnated as another being altogether and life will begin anew.”
I held back a groan. “That sounds…complicated.”
“Not really. It is written.”
“Did they teach you that in religious ed?”
“Nevermind.” I shook my head. “I’m not into re-runs. One failed attempt at life is more than enough for me.”
“You have failed. That is good.”
I let out a bitter laugh. “My ex-wife might disagree.”
“Hidden in all misfortune is good fortune.”
“Of course,” I said, rolling my eyes.
“There is no dark without light, nor light without dark. It’s Yin and Yang.” He held up his hands and brought his palms together. “The woman and the man. The Phoenix and the Dragon.”
“Sounds like a match made in heaven.”
“Not heaven. Harmony.”
“There’s nothing harmonious about my life right now.”
“You are missing Yin. When you find it, you will be complete; balanced. Love brings light where there is dark.” He reached into his bag and pulled out a smooth, round stone.
“What is that?”
“Jade. It is very valuable.”
He held out the green disc and I took it, rubbing it between my fingers. Only the bottom of the stone was smooth, the top was rough with ridges formed by an engraving. “What are these markings?”
“One side is the Phoenix and the other, the Dragon.”
The man grinned. “For now.”
“What do you mean?”
“They are meant to be separate.”
“But you just said they go together, Yin and Yang.”
“They do. I said they are meant to be separate. Not separated.”
“I don’t understand.”
He sighed. “When you find Yin, you cut the stone in half. She wears Dragon, you wear Phoenix.”
“Separate, but not separated.”
“Can I keep it?”
“It is yours.”
I looked down at the intricate carving. “How will I know?”
“When I find my Yin.”
“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind. And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”
The man shook his head. “Shakespeare.”
I smirked and turned to watch the setting sun. “Are you sure I can’t take y-”
When I looked back again, he was gone. I stood on my toes to see above the crowd, searching for a slight man wearing a red robe, but I saw nothing but tourists heading toward the beach and vendors packing up shop.
I stared down at the stone in my hand and took a step forward, bumping into a woman heading in the opposite direction.
“Hey! Watch it.”
“Sorry,” I said, gripping her shoulders to steady us both. “Are you ok?”
She stared at me, her piercing green eyes meeting mine in a moment that stole my breath. “I think so.” She straightened her skirt and tank top and looked up again. “In a hurry to get somewhere?”
I smiled. “Inevitably.”
“Nothing,” I said, holding out my hand, “I’m Adam.”
“Jade,” she said, as her fingers closed around mine.