He shuffled and trudged his way up the street, up the street of his life, every day. He lived nowhere really, loved no-one truly and saved nothing for the many rainy wet days that had followed him. He lived on the discarded trays of takeaway scraps and water from the sisters of mercy. I watched him pause at the gate, genuflect and bow his tousled, matted head. A sister, so familiar with this beloved rat of a man, handed a cup of water from both of her hands and he drank. She said something with slight implore to which he shook his head, then bowed and she watched him slowly move away.
I followed him, round the corner and through an opening to the square. Some young men in narrow pants and pointed shoes, as sharp as picks, were lounging and leaning across a bench and against the wall of the café. They, one by one, turned as they noticed this tragedy of fashion skirt their reach, heading toward the next dustbin. One jeered, one spat and one flicked a wasted matchstick toward him after lighting a skinny rolled cigarette. He looked at the floor where the match had landed and slowly raised his eyes to the young man with the cigarette and the asymmetric sneer that pulled his mouth ugly. He looked at the boy from under his rat tailed dirty hair, without contempt, without meekness, and held the young man’s narrow eyes until they gave up their narrowness and his mouth untwisted. He turned away and rejoined his path, leaving the young man bound up in his own discomfort.
He knew nothing about the world now, having surrendered all his memory to decay, along with the detritus he chose to live next to. He owned nothing that could be left behind and returned to, and sought little from a world that had turned the earth sour and had produced war and battle and a man against himself. He knew nothing of chatting, and passing the time of day, but he knew how to push humanity back into a man.