Harvey was insane, but he wasn’t hurting anybody. He took up a lot of space, but it was space no one wanted and they were happy that someone found a use for it, even if that use was crazy. It was a derelict hangar half a mile from an abandoned army base, an empty cracked concrete block with weeds thick as cockroaches and cockroaches sprouting up like weeds. Say what you will about Harvey, but he cleaned her up. His first week there, he pulled all the weeds and stomped all the cockroaches under his old cracked leather army boots. He used a hoe and a hose to mix cement in a wheelbarrow and filled in all the cracks. He filled in the windows, too, and any openings, except the big hangar door that the planes used to taxi through before the base closed.
I only met him a couple of times. No one in town has spent much time with Harvey, or even visited him in his hangar more than a handful of times, with exception of Ike, who volunteers with the V.A. in his spare time. No one knows if Harvey was a vet, not even Ike knows for sure, but Ike says that he can tell, deep down in his gut, that even if Harvey never served, he’d definitely seen something like a war. He told me that when we were on our way to the hangar. Harvey had been living there for five years by that point, and hadn’t stepped out of that building once. Every week, someone would bring him food, usually Ike. I was fifteen, that first trip. I think every teenager was brought out at least once, like some rite of passage. Some people see a shaman, some see a rabbi, some go on a hunt or a vision quest; we saw Harvey.
The hangar was five minutes from the highway, out over the hard-packed light brown dirt. Ike parked his SUV off to the side of the hangar, and we got out. He opened the trunk and we grabbed a bunch of grocery bags and walked towards the gaping entry to the hangar. Harvey never closed that door, left it open night and day, in good weather and storm. The concrete near the door was coated in a layer of dirt. Dried leaves lay scattered throughout the structure, piled in corners, skittering and clattering whenever a gust of hot wind blew in. A small campsite was set against the wall farthest from the entrance. A patched gray one-man tent and a little propane stove. Harvey crawled out of the tent as we approached, a man at least sixty years old with ghost-white hair and sand textured skin. His clothes were worn and threadbare, a light shirt that was once blue or black but now seemed a dull gray and jeans sun bleached almost as white as his hair.
Ike and I walked to the tent and put the food down. I noticed several empty grocery bags scattered around the place, some half mulched. I didn’t say anything, and wasn’t going to until Ike nudged me in the ribs with his elbow and said, “You can ask him. He won’t be offended.” Harvey waited patiently as I put the words together.
“Why do you live out here?”
Harvey told me. He said he was waiting. The universe works according to certain principles, certain laws of physics. Diffusion. Particles tend to move from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration. If he waits long enough, the area inside the hangar will become a microcosm of the world in its entirety. “Who wouldn’t want their own world?” he concluded.
I only saw him twice since then. Once, a few years later, when I dropped off some groceries because Ike was sick. And a couple years after that I saw his picture in the local paper, with a brief passage about how his heart gave out and he probably didn’t suffer. Since then, the hangar’s been torn down. You can still tell where it was by remnants of the concrete foundation, but even that’s fading now.