He stood on a wooden crate. I saw people passing by give him mutters of sympathy, small snippets of words cut from a sharp tongue interrupting an ignorant conversation. From 20 feet away, I can still make out the caked, cracking paint covering his skin. Can still make out the confusion of a five-year-old's innocence sent to work, sent to pray off the pockets of the passing tourists, just one more pitiful attraction of the gleaming Mediterranean coast. Ah, what seas, what beaches, what breeze, what poor child sent to stand on a crate; a beggar before age ten. Painted to the shade of marble. Shivering and quaking out of unknowing. Ruby lips tight. Hazelnut eyes frightened. Honest-to-goodness Horrified. I palm my two euros into the counter, feeling them "click" under my hand. Baklava is to Greece as Chocolate Chip Cookies are to America. Flaky, delicate pasty in hand, I stalk toward that crate. I'm hitting my toes against the bucket where I know the money should go. Do you watch a child's face as their first Christmas tree, strung with popcorn and engulfed by unlit light bulbs, is lit that first winter frost? I imagine, if I had, it would of looked like this. This boy, staged as a mean of income to feed the starving mouth that is poverty, his eyes now swimming with cautious delight. This boy, prodding the delicacy lightly with his thumb, testing for reality. This boy, giving what must have been the most honest smile I've seen in years, saying a simple thanks in his native tongue. "Efkaristo" A whisper of welcomes, an impulsive hug, and I was off. Home.
October 27, 2011