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Hidden Angels

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I saw a man in the park today. His clothes were ragged and torn, as though he’d walked a thousand miles through lingering blackberry bushes. His shoes, the brown leather rubbed and scuffed and cracked, looked as though they had spent the past century in a salty, foreign ocean. A brown beard grew brazenly from his chin, tangled and wild. This is a strange man, I thought to myself. A strange man.

As I sat silently on my bench, the gulls cawing above and a small dog yapping to my right, I drank him in. A traveller, no doubt. Judging by appearances, he had not known the warmth of a shower nor the comfort of a bed in a very long time. The small, brown paper bag half-full of popcorn lays on the bench beside me, spilling out its contents in a forlorn and forgotten way. I gaze distractedly at the man who stares and stares into the glittering shard of a memory I cannot see or even begin to share.

With a sigh he turns around to face the towering buildings behind him. They remind him of building blocks, stacked haphazardly on top of one another. Pigeons and gulls alike sit cooing on the steps of empty theaters, as though waiting for the afternoon audiences. They wander aimlessly, these birds, like ghosts of a vacant city. But not vacant, not vacant at all but alive and thriving. Crowds flutter through busy streets as dark, secretive individuals inhabit the dark, deserted alleyways, visible only to those who stop, and glance, and pause.

As though sensing my mind intruding upon his thoughts he turns to face me, this strange, lost man. His posture is hostile but with no cruel intent, as though he has caught many more persons than I studying him. Any normal, shy, gentle-woman would have been deterred by his gaze, but not I. He had entangled me in a web of imagination and dream, this curious man. He looked tired and lonely and individual, like a single leaf dangling from a tree in the autumn. A homeless man, shunned from a society who had based its belief on beauty and lack-there-of.

But his eyes! An icy fire, burning bluest at the very edges, infatuated with lightning strikes of white and grey. Intelligent eyes, as I see now, burning with as much purpose and curiosity as the next passing person. His gentle face is scarred with age and time and weather. His cheekbones are high, and his jaw most pronounced and strong. Hands, worn with labour and pain hang loosely by his sides in a carefree yet deliberate manner. Yet of all his goodly features, I could never have forgotten his eyes.

After a minute or two he sighed and walked away, to where I cannot say. My eyes rested not on his retreating figure but on the ghostly shadow he has left behind, in my mind. Those dazzling, blue eyes staring endlessly and incomprehensible into a world of which I’ve never even dreamed.

As I walk home, the sun setting behind the vague and distant mountains, I replay my encounter in the park over and over again in my mind’s eye. I peel back the layers of pain and guarded expressions, time and weathering. The intelligence I’d found in his eye, and the gentle, almost carefree manner with which he’d held himself simply took my breath away. Heading down a deserted, yet wide street I look up into the night sky and with its stars, and the moon hanging delicately over the horizon. I no longer saw a poor and homeless man. I saw a soul.





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