The first time I walked past him he was in a half squat with his hand partly stretched, his elbow nestled between his groin. His right hand was out, his left hand covering his chest – holding his cloak in. His back was supported by the pinkish wall behind him – they all had a shade of pink and were virtually indistinguishable.
It was just after lunch and we had, having placed our bags in the hotel, left with eagerness and purpose to begin some preliminary exploration of the souks. The mosque, which he was perched opposite, had emptied and the business of the narrow street had resumed. It seemed as though there was an endless stream of the noisy motorcycles just waiting for you to begin trying to navigate your way before hurtling down the narrow streets. And the maps, those blasted maps, never made any distinction between what was quite obviously an alley to the foreign eye and what was a street: how self-centered. Needless to say, we eventually got lost.
Sometime before leaving London, I had been sent by a colleague to offer a homeless man some soup. He had frowned as he saw me coming and lifted his palm to me like a gate, demarcating the area I was not to enter. It’s no excuse but (the excuse is) I had up to this point encountered ‘the professional beggar’ plenty of times. This had made me weight the scales in favour of distrust and away from compassion.
We walked past this one.
“To the least of my brothers” He said.