That Man

For 2 years, that man was always there, except yesterday. It was only there that I got to see him or imagine him to be. I briskly approached the path he usually sat. It was cleaner compared to the rest of the footpath because no shoes treaded there. It was his territory albeit it was unlikely that he had a title deed to prove ownership. In fact many things belonged to that man, especially unfortunate things, like this street. I cared less about that street and more about that man. Where could he be? I probed to no avail. According to a friend my interactions with that man were a manifestation of my humanity, until yesterday when this street served as a revelation to the opposite.

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As I approached that man’s empty territory, I was instinctively relieved that I didn’t have to stretch forth my hand to exchange pleasantries with him. Partly because his rock-hard palm squeezed mine to an extent I could feel the bumpy sores that dominated his. And partly because I was not a better person. Better people don’t cringe on the inside while exchanging pleasantries. The streets whispered that better people don’t cleanse their hands with sanitizer worried they would contaminate ‘doctor knows what’ bacteria or fungus that was responsible for that man’s sores. Truth be told, I was never even sure if they were sores, boils or rough gloves that were on his palm because my eyeballs averted his hand each time I shook it. All I thought of is the end of the pressurized handshake without the bumpy contents having to erupt.

The spring in my step collapsed with my failure to reconstruct his face even after 2 years. He was an abstract, that man without a face. I could only associate him with the streets, his rough palm riddle and the tidbits that belonged to him, like the tattered brown King James Version Bible that he constantly read. I could clearly picture his plastic bowl-turned -piggy bank that lay in front of him in which I occasionally tossed change along with others who were moved to do so. How was that humane? The streets hollered.

Shame engulfed me when it occurred to me that I associated more with his absence than his essence. Perhaps the fact that he bombarded me with Scriptures and interpreted them on my behalf during our street encounter geared my focus from my concern about his being to my vehement opposition that ‘righteous’ women are not only those whose skirts swept the dust.

My inability to swerve our conversations beyond debates in order to discover where he laid his head after leaving the street haunted me. If I had been more inquisitive, more concerned, more human, then my vain inquisition of his whereabouts would be nonexistent. The street taunted me that my deeds to humanity were a hoax. The handshakes, the tips, the beam and the fripperies did not add meaning to humanity.

That man did not only bear a face but possessed a name. I was disgusted by my memory which boasted knowledge on relevant worldly phenomena and not that man’s name. My anima accused me of referring to that man as a pronoun. My conscious indicted me for perceiving that man as a beggar on that street.

That man after all was a man (remove that), it hit me as I boarded a bus to the land of remorse.

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