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  • Ursula Leichenberg

Vol 7: The Ginger Stranger

This isn't his story. It's yours, Los Santos. Take a hard look inside yourselves, and see the twisted paths that lead people to cross ways. Each interaction is the same and yet somehow different. The Ginger Stranger is a fixture, rarely moving, but always creating speculation, especially from those who can't bear to be in the dark.


"Look into 'Bench Guy,'" my boss tells me. "There's something there."


An instant evolution as I realized it would never be about his story. The rampant guessing game around town, the things people have done around him, is a far more fascinating view into the life of this city than whatever tale brought him to that bench. And not every single biography is meant to be put to pen. Some are destined for stony silence.


Each citizen has a different reaction to him. Some walk past never thinking on the enigma, never letting it take up a moment inside their crowded heads. Some glance over with curiosity but continue on. And others take it as a challenge to engage with him, push his buttons, see how far to take it, as if the wild animal will only growl.


"Fuck off," the Ginger Stranger says, a threatening antagonism heard in his words as people talk at him. "Don't fucking talk to me."


Something about the hostility of those words creates this imaginary bubble around the Ginger Stranger that pulls people in who can't handle the raw reality that sometimes, they simply aren't welcome. And in these moments, Los Santos, your true colors shine, as you let your insecurity take over and show everyone the ego child within.


Mockery is common, with people repeating his actions like monkeys in a zoo, unable to think of anything creative. Others channel the same aggression, their stance and phrases changing as if the mere defiance of the Ginger Stranger's combative words has triggered some alpha fight between them for who is dominant. Friendship is offered and rejected. He stares at those who attempt to provoke, ready and willing to draw a gun if endangered.


Not everyone receives his belligerence. A woman sitting on the pavement nearby is largely ignored, with only the occasional comment about her writing or her motives. Others come and sit down on the bench, silent, enjoying their own peace before moving on. Another woman sits down near the Ginger Stranger, and they speak, civil and cryptic, as if they have their own code. An attachment of some sort.


Through this experience, a pattern emerges, the truth of Los Santos. Things easily denied on the outside that are deeply craved within.


Connection.


It's silly to think we are our own islands, alone, separate, needing no one. They engage with him for connection, whether positive or negative. They seek out that bond that links them to a fellow human, and even as they deride and parody him, privately, they want to find some fundamental connection that proves this is a fellow human. For his part, he does grant an acrimonious connection to many, but they see the coldness as a sign of broken bonds, when in reality he seeks out the same, if in a twisted way.


The veil is lifted, Los Santos. Your face shown. Your truth revealed. Even when you push everyone away, you need to feel part of it. The Ginger Stranger evokes that from all, pulling on that thread, even if he's unaware of it.


The bench is empty now of the Ginger Stranger. Yet somehow others are drawn to it. Some sitting for peace. Others for hostility. And for a handful, they wait, knowing if they sit there long enough, they will find the connection their heart so desperately needs.

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