I take it.
I live to tell about it.
Was he a pedophile? Was he a step away from robbing my mother of her entire world? He may well have been. It seems likely that he was. Perhaps someone appeared within view, got a good look at the guy. Perhaps it wasn't worth the risk at that moment. Perhaps the overly confident and seriously naive boy was handed a commuted sentence.
This same boy - that is to say - I, sometime later, am walking to school. I pass beneath the tracks and now I actually sense danger. I am beginning to become afraid. I slow as I pass to the back end of the tunnel. There is an embankment on either side of the tunnel, and they are covered in a deep green vine all the way up to the top. I stop at the hill, look to my right and there I see it. There is a man lying in the vines on his side. He is shabbily dressed, could possibly be one of the gypsies that lives in the hobbled-together shacks that line the Seine, the great river which lies about a half mile away. He might be one of the people who live in the streets, even in our quiet suburb, utterly mad and giving off an intense and burning odor that I remember distinctly to this day. He is about halfway up the hill, almost covered in vine. For a moment I am paralyzed in terror. I wonder if he will get up, I am practically waiting for him to stir, no matter how much this would frighten me, just so that I could be certain that this man was not dead. There are small scraps of paper scattered around him, and there is a very dark stain just where his chest comes away from the ground. It could have been blood.
I resume my walk to school.
I never tell anyone. Until today.
There is an island of stone upon which a fortress is built, a fortress that is peaked with a monastery. The entire island sits in a tidal pool, and when the tide is low there are numerous areas of deadly quicksand waiting for anyone foolish enough to ignore the warning signs by straying off the paved path. you can buy inflatable rabbits and toy guns on your winding hike around and up the island. The entire place smells of brine and feels ancient.
On our way back from this place I watch as a man loses himself in stupidity. It is beyond me. It is defining. And sometimes, if you run fast enough, you can squeeze under the gate before the dogs get you.