Monday, 27 June 2011

Day eight

I feel like a windsock.

I'm introduced to Clifton, aka what sounds like Killer.

He doesn’t look like one.
‘Short for Kilimanjaro,’ he says.
‘Ah, I say, ‘snow on the top.’
‘And everything else all the way down,’ he says. 'What’s your name?’
He laughs. ‘Queen Isabella and Christopher Columbus!’

He accepts his picture. ‘You make me look handsome and I’m gonna get some girlfriends.’

He takes the picture over to a group of lean weatherbeaten Rastas. I hear raucous rasping laughter.

Egbert detaches himself from the Rasta group. ‘I saw what you did for my friend,’ he says courteously, resting his black spoon on the concrete slab. ‘I clean vehicles for a living and play reggae very loud.’

I draw; he falls asleep with dignity and gradually folds into himself. Perfect. I want to draw the comatose, the departed, the flayed, the anatomised. We are peaceful together.

He coughs himself awake and I give him a bottle of water. ‘People say to me why do you speak to all people? I try to read,’ he says. ‘They say I should write my life story but too many people gonna get hurt. I speak the truth. My grandmother says speak the truth and shame ol’ Beelzebub himself. I left St Lucia on the eighth of January 1959 by boat. My first address here was 19 Colville Square.’

A woman stops her car and asks him to clean and vacuum the car on Friday.

He studies the picture. Harsh lines let me down but he says: ‘You’ve captured the essence of me. My mother would have been proud of this.’ I go to shake his hand but he says, ‘No, I am from St Lucia,’ and kisses my hand three times.

He takes the picture back to his companions and I hear more cackling.

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