Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The Stranger

The stranger walked briskly towards the two men; they paid him no attention as they searched through the bins lining the beach-walk for food. Judging from the look of satisfaction on their faces, the stranger concluded that they had made a good meal of the left-overs discarded by visitors who had been at the beach earlier. He walked on further, feeling helpless and useless, his attention now captured by the rising moon behind the clouds and how it cast a shimmering path of light on the sea that seemed to shine into the horizon.

His thoughts of the shimmering moon upon the waters were interrupted by a figure walking towards him in the opposite direction. The figure was clearly under the influence of some intoxicating beverage judging from how its movements were a series of repeated steps in whichever direction necessary for it to remain on its feet. As the stranger got closer to the figure he noticed the figure transform into a young man of no more than thirty years of age. This young man stopped at the nearest bin and held it in both hands in a fashion that a person would when the alcohol turns in one's stomach and wants to make some escape in the same direction it had been consumed. It turns out that the swaying young man is actually looking for food; just like the two previous men the stranger had passed some paces back.

The stranger walked on, perhaps for some thirty paces and he found his attention diverted to some chatter on his right. He cast his eyes to where the chorus of jovial voices were coming from. It was a restaurant with an open deck looking out at sea. Seated in groups at the tables on the deck were white people enjoying the cool evening air, their generous meals before them, and everything else that white people enjoy. The stranger felt a surge of frustration and suppressed anger rush through his being as his mind wondered how, barely a few paces away, some men had been eating out of a dustbin. As he tried to reason on how things changed yet remain the same he looked over his shoulder before making his way across the street.

Across the street, on the stretch of grass regularly used for the flea market on Sunday was a marquee. This wasn't just an ordinary marquee. This marquee was especially erected for the Easter church celebrations. For what reason the church had decided to erect it at the beach, the stranger didn't bother to think. The frustration and suppressed anger he had felt only a few moments ago reached an almost unbearable crescendo accompanied by the music flowing from the people singing in the marquee. This unique blend of emotions and music made the stranger feel like crying. It couldn't be the frustration and suppressed anger that made his eyes well up in tears he silently concluded as he picked up his pace in an effort to get away from within earshot of the music as soon as possible.

He crossed yet another street and immediately upon reaching the other side he was greeted by a beggar. The beggar followed his greeting with a request for cash. The stranger mumbled some inaudible words to the beggar as he entered a nearby shop. A few minutes later the stranger emerged from the shop carrying a plastic bag and walked towards the beggar. He paused briefly in front of the beggar and pulled out a brown loaf of bread, handed it to the beggar, while adding that he didn't have any money but could afford to buy that loaf for the beggar.
As the stranger turned and continued his walk a smile appeared on his face. The uselessness and helplessness, the frustration and suppressed anger he had felt, and the sorrow brought on by the music from the marquee miraculously lifted off him. The gratitude expressed by the beggar had done the stranger a world of good.