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man with beard

published: 2011-10-18

There he is again. Not a man but his shadow. Fading by the passing of time. Winter or Summer, he always wears the same coat. It is a deep red and it must be wool as it hasn’t worn down, not in twenty years.
His beard hasn’t either. It is grey now, when it was brown once. His shoulders are skinnier, the coat fits him better than it did back then. Back then, he couldn’t close the button around his belly and needed a belt. He no longer has that belt. He does still have the same brown woollen cap.
Back then, he played guitar in front of a young lady’s home. She was a student. She would always give him a coin or two. Then one day, it was really cold and she asked, “what is your name?”
“Andrew,” he said.

“Why don’t you come inside to warm up?” she said. She pointed at the shop that was out of business, which is why he stood there. Nobody chased him away. She lived above that shop.
He didn’t say anything but went inside because apparently this is what he was meant to do.
“Wait here,” she said and ran upstairs.

It was hot in there. He took off his coat and the big, fat sweater he had one day found. And his woollen hat. His hair was stringy and stuck together in patches.
She came back with a flask and a cup.
“Coffee,” she said and she also gave him some chocolates.
“Christmas chocolates, we hang them in the tree,” she said, “do you celebrate Christmas?”
He didn’t know what to say and so he stared at the chocolate for a while.
“I don’t like chocolate,” he said.
She told him it didn’t matter, which he found strange. Why should it matter?
She looked at her watch and said she had to go or she’d be late for class.
“Stay here all day if you like,” she said, “it’s going to be minus 5 degrees today.”
He put on his sweater, his jacket andwent back outside. He took the flask with him and looked for a different place to stand.

He no longer has the guitar, no longer stands in front of anyone’s home. He just walks and walks and walks, while staring at the pavement, his arms folded on his back. The arch in his back is painful. He looks up only very sometimes.
One day a woman who seems to have been watching him waves at him.
“Andrew!” she says.
He has no idea who she is.

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