A breeze started blowing. The gust blew apart the locust branches above and some flickering sunlight passed over his face. He was not looking at me anymore. He was looking left, down in the grass, or nowhere, or beneath the earth. As if he had lost all his words in there. My ankle was no longer trembling. I was standing strong on both feet. There was just some tingling down under my ribs. And something was squeezing my throat. At moments, that sun would shine upon him through the leaves and would meld with the greasy smudges on his sweatshirt. The shadows were so fleeting, that one could not tell a smudge from a shadow.
“Call the police” his voice rasped, hushed, smothered.
His frozen gaze did not flinch from the grass. He was completely calm, motionless. Even his jugular had stopped moving. As if he lacked a pulse. Whether I had been suddenly overcome and placed under some imagined power by that tranquility of his, or whether I was like a sated beast whose prey was no longer struggling, so that I no longer wanted to hunt it, I do not know.
“I won’t” I said five-six seconds later and I was amazed at myself. I’m not telling my wife, she’ll kill me. “Bug off, go away. I don’t want to see you anymore.”
He looked me in the eyes. I was looking at him too, expressionless, I think. I stepped out of his way and motioned him to pass with my head. He moved slowly, I followed him. We passed those four-five meters to the yard door. The moped was on the street. Behind it, the car. I moved to park it elsewhere to make way.
“Wait,” he said. “Let’s talk a little bit. Stay awhile. I want to remember you. Wait, mate. You smoke? Can I have a cigarette now? Let’s both have one.”
That “mate” of his somehow did not bother me now. I was looking at this face. There was nothing triumphant in it. Nothing insidious. I took out my cigarettes, opened the pack with my thumb and extended my arm. He took one. I did too.
“What’s your name?” he asked me when I lit his.
I told him with the cigarette in my mouth as I was lighting it. “And you?”
He told me. “Do you work somewhere?”
I told him that too.
“Did they steal a lot from your home?”
“A little bit. Almost everything of worth and everything that meant something to us. We’re dirt poor.” I felt some sort of shame. “But you’re way worse than me, brother.”
“It doesn’t matter. I know how much it hurts. It’s yours. Your nest. Never stole in my life, I give ya my word. Sorry. You can’t believe how ashamed I am. I’ve a house too. I’m more ashamed from ma kids than from you.”