Painting reproduced by permission of the artist, Max Ferguson
He has a kind face. I will ask this man. One that surely has seen and shared its own world of troubles. I will ask him. He with Moses’ breath in his lungs. Who once, I do not doubt, in a time gone by, was not of this city of dreams. The face and form of his ancestors. This outcrop of nature. This clay grown tall. I’ll ask him. Yes, him. He has kind eyes. Of an age and demeanour unafraid of a stranger’s approach. A stranger’s plea. On another day. If the world had turned out otherwise. With a different set of causes and conditions. Then I might have told him something more of myself. Maybe the story of how I rescued the lamb that had got trapped in the thicket. When I was a young boy. Far from here. How I’d pulled it from the thorny bushes. Held it close to my chest, though I was barely much bigger than itself. Then took it back into the field to its mother. Or how I used to walk along the dusty track with my grandmother. Holding the small pitcher of water to give as alms to the wandering monk. My grandmother, poor as she was, with two balls of sticky rice wrapped in palm leaves in her bag. We two, waiting on the road side for him to pass by. The ancient monk shrouded in his vows of silence. Day after day we’d go. One day after the next. These are things I would tell you, might tell you.
If we’re to become friends. If we already were. Now not these things. But of Mr. Leitz the landlord. He who presses us for more money. Who threatens us with authorities I know nothing of, but fill me with fear. And my wife who is terrified to go outside our tiny rooms. Not knowing what is said in the streets. What is shouted. What is not. Wherein lie the threats in this ramshackle alien city of cars and mountainous buildings. Keeping our children close by her side for fear of all that is unknown. While I work two and three jobs to satisfy the demands of Mr. Leitz the landlord. Can he do to us what he says he can? You have a gentle face. A wise presence. Of this and other worlds. You can see we are connected. By the simplicity of blood. Of flesh. Of our elemental nature. You, like me, will know that if we were to die. Here. Now. Together. Fall to the ground together. Then we would merge. Dust into each other’s dust. Melting back to earth. I feel the surge of wind. Presaging the train. And with its arrival your sudden departure. Robbing me of my one chance. To connect. With someone my heart tells me will help. Will show sympathy. Empathy. So now. I must step forward. Be brave, for bravery is needed. ‘Sir … Please help me … Tell me what I can do.’