Just as Antaeus drew his strength from his mother Gaia -–one of the many names the Ancient Greeks gave the earth–-I draw mine from the sun. On bright mornings you’ll find me at the café round the corner, sipping the thick, black beverage my waiter brings to my sidewalk table. That’s right. After years of patronage, I feel I own them.
Next to the water jug there’s a book, my note pad, and a packet of slim cigarettes. I smoke and read, smoke and jot down ideas that may or may not develop into stories, or just smoke, letting my mind wander freely into the memory of things past. Between drags at my cig, I feed my eyes on the luscious vegetation of the park across the road. A dangerous place, they say. A shelter for the dispossessed, I know.
One Monday last year, a tall, staggering figure emerged from the clustered trees and nearly got run over by the heavy city-bound traffic as it headed straight toward me. With my glasses off, I only realized it was a very young man, almost a child, when he stopped abruptly by my side. The odors reeking from his body offended my nostrils, yet behind the grime that covered his face like a painted mask his beautiful, delicate features softened my heart. His emerald green eyes, glazed by who knows what excesses, sought mine in a mute plead. I thought I understood.
“Would you like me to buy you something to eat?” I offered
He shook his head angrily, his long, lank, mousy-colored hair piercing the mild October breeze. Grabbing the extra chair, he plonked himself down onto it and pointed a bony finger at my book. “What are you reading?” he asked in a commanding tone. He didn’t have a place to hide his head, so where did such airs come from? Pride, of course. “The infinitely small have a pride infinitely great.” Merci, monsieur Voltaire.
“A novel,” I replied curtly.
“Is it good?”
“I think so. Here. Take a look at the back cover.”
“I can’t read. Never went to school.” Pride turned into a humble apology. He didn’t owe me one, but perhaps it was addressed to himself, for he had stepped into murky waters of his own accord. I bit my tongue to hold back the questions that stumbled upon one another in their need for explicit formulation. Useless questions, I figured. His story couldn’t be very different from those of his brothers in misfortune who populated every corner of this doggone country.
We know-it-alls decide, judge, discard. What came next shook me to my core.
“Will you kiss me? I don’t have a mother. I need a mother’s kiss.” He leaned forward, bringing his cheek close to my lips.
I complied. His skin felt oddly smooth.
He caressed the spot, smiled, and stood up.
“Wait! Tell me your name. I have to call you something when we meet again. I come here every day…can teach you to read…can help you…”
“No. You helped me already. God bless you, mother.” And in a few, quick strides he disappeared among the trees.
My waiter chose to peep out of the door right at that moment. “I was watching,” he said. “Ready to rescue you, but you didn’t seem upset.”
I gave him a succinct account of the incident. He, a family man in his early thirties, shrugged and grinned. “Next time a bum comes up, just give him money. No use wasting time and breath on their kind.”
Marta Merajver-Kurlat writes fiction and non-fiction. Check out her website and Amazon page to take a look at her vast production. Learn more at http://www.martamerajver.com.ar/marta/
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