Friday, April 21, 2017

crossed paths

There is magic in the old city. You'll know that already if you've ever lived there. Or if you've read anything by Charles de Lint you'll be able to imagine it.

We had to go all the long, long way into the city today. When we had a free moment, I took my daughter to see the decrepit house I once lived in when I was a starving student learning poetry and old books and eating Chinese takeaways for dinner. My apartment was tiny and you could not walk halfway into the kitchen without fearing that you'd slide down the tilted floor towards the uncertain windows. I was amazed to see the building still standing, after all these years.

As we were walking back down the hill, an old Slavic man walked up towards us. He looked like something out of a myth - dressed in ancient style, all browns and weary leather; he wore a round leather hat from beneath which hung two long grey braids. His chin was tattooed. He walked with the aid of a twisted wooden cane, although he was tall and thin and straight.

I smiled at him, utterly drawn to him. And he stopped. He said, how is it that I should come upon two such beautiful ladies on a day like this? And he waved a hand to honour the sky, sending black birds swirling into cold grey light. Then he held out both arms and bowed to us.

We laughed with delight and thanked him. We went on our way. Turning back once, I saw him ambling up the hill. Turning back again a moment later, I found he had vanished.

No doubt he lives in one of the tiny dingy apartments which clutter the ramshackle houses on the hill. He likely sits alone in his dim room, dreaming of his wondrous, faraway homeland and drinking smoky tea. But it seemed to me he was one of the old, deeper people, the magic people, and I feel blessed to have crossed his path on this hushed winter's day.


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