He is the man near the river. I don’t know his name and even if I did it would be of no importance. After all, it’s just sounds and letters strung together on an invisible thread and hung around one’s neck to be worn for eternity. A chain, a burden if you like, that one has to carry for the rest of his life.
He is just…. there. I see him every day, always at the same time and in the same place and almost always doing the same thing. He is sitting on a low stool, his naked brown torso and huge belly shining with sweat that stains his gray pants. His back is slightly bent forward and the scarce gray hair he has left has been plastered to his head by the unmerciful heat. There are no shoes on his feet and the toes with misshapen nails are clearly visible. He looks straight ahead, his hands between his knees holding a piece of cloth dripping with dirty water. The soap he’s holding makes bubbles in his hands and then his hands come together, rubbing the fabric with a movement that tells of many days spent near the river with a naked torso and the sun making tiny rivers run on his bare skin.
Does he see me? I wonder. I mean does he really see me? Sometimes it feels like deja-vu seeing him there day after day, always at the same time and almost always doing the same thing over and over again. He dips the cloth in the plastic bucket, brings it up and starts cleaning it with a small brush. For a moment he seems to be looking straight at me and time stops and I try to think of something to do, maybe smile, but unmerciful time does not wait and I go, carried by my motorcycle taxi on my way home from a tiring day at work.
August 27, 2006
P.S. As you can see by the date, this story is quite a few years old. It was described exactly as I saw it and strangely enough, I got to see that man again, just a few weeks ago. He was wearing the same type of clothes and he was thinner and had lost his hair but I recognized him instantly. Funny how things work.