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Now You See Him

Page 7

Young Matthew, whose spot was across the street from Leonard’s and who painted cards, birthday cards, Christmas cards, and ‘just because’ cards, talked him into letting a mate of his paint his portrait in the graffiti laneway. That cheered him up.  The light came back into his eyes and he stood up straight…for a while.  Matthew’s mate was talented.  The portrait revealed him: his shyness and his cunning; his intelligence and his gullibility; his bravado and his vulnerability; his hope and his despair.  In that spray-painted mural we could see him as he was, as he wanted to be, and as he wasn’t.

He was Leonard, and he was special. He was different, but in the end the same as all the others on the street.  They all had their stories, and each story was as different as it was the same.

We haven’t seen Leonard for more than a year now.  At first I’d see him at all sorts of different spots around the city, dirty and bent, those pianist’s hands filthy and shaking as he held them out for help.  All we have left of him now is this ravaged portrait in the laneway, fast disappearing under layers of new images, and our memory of how hard he tried. 

 

Disclaimer:  The characters in this story are based on street people I have known, incorporating their characteristics and their stories.  But any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

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