The Faces

 

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There were times when drinking brought elation, but others, like tonight, when it brought only a weariness that felt universal. It was too hard to walk home, the streets and pavements all sloped steeply upwards, the street lights dimmed, and the hoardings were all touting TORPOR.

In this mood I sat down on a bench and was shortly joined by an elderly wino.. The accepted behaviour in these situations was to move off smartly discouraging the anticipated hard luck story and importuning request.. I hadn’t the energy and it seemed neither had he to close on his mark.

Instead he lingered, hesitant in his pitch, coughed, fidgeted, and then slumped back . We shared a mutual silence. We watched the branches wobble uncertainly in the breeze as an occasional footfall passed. Time passed  too.

At some point I heard him say,

Son , the only thing that’s changed around here are the faces..

The silence resumed. We made no eye contact, but continued to stare out from our bench, at the silhouettes of the bleary figures, and finally I could see it was true. They had changed – been repaired, restored or recycled.. With concentration you could see the scars, the tucks and joins.

We sat there for aeons, and watched new versions of the same intrigues. Our vista grew and shrank and grew again, took in the growth of cities, ruinous sieges, pageants, romances, memorials, commitments, riots, pantomimes and pogroms , which we knew would cycle endlessly, like the growth and decay of the foliage which overhung our seat. There was still no need to say anything, yet I felt a certain duty to reflect on what I d seen , to pass the time of day with another witness –

‘Son, the only thing that’s changed around here are the faces.’ I said..

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