by Simon Willace Monday August 02, 2004 at 09:51 AM
I’ve never been enamored with people, I can take them or leave them, and ‘no’ seriously I just don’t care enough. You read about them dying in fires or accidents but it’s just a moments pause for me and then it’s a forgotten news reports, even as the family photos blend into just more heads, my pity evaporates making room for the next media travesty.
Have you ever sat in your car after a few drinks and thought about the life you just might take? Or the life left destroyed? I haven’t, I’ve driven off with a fear of losing my license instead, that’s all that's been in my head.
However this is all beside the point, because now Arthur’s dead.
Arthur may have had views on these worldly things; I don’t know he never said, too late now I guess, because he’s dead.
I didn’t know Arthur, I’ll have to admit, I saw him across the street many times but we never spoke. He never spoke to me or to anyone of that I’m quite sure…a man I knew who lived in the park, but that’s not quite all.
In the inner city west, just a park bench when wet or under a tree when fine a homeless man without a postal address.
He lived the simple life, out of the way and quite alone, where he would while away the time reading books that no one could ever read again. He had the habit of ripping the pages as he finished them one by one and let them fly, he wasn’t what you would call very environmentally friendly or even in manner friendly.
For years I would see this evidence, in scattered volumes, pages ripped off the classics, ‘For the term of his natural life’ scattered competing for space within the leaves. From this evidence I’d choose a title from the shelves and once in a while left it for him on his favorite bench, watching for the pages to see what he’d read. A Jeffrey Archer I once found discarded but intact, pages sodden through told me that at best he had taste, not ungrateful but it wasn’t worth the familiar waste.
Arthur had his habits, he would not wear shoes and his feet were as dirty as the soiled overcoat he wore, his hair was unkempt dreadlocked and as long as his beard. He didn’t smoke and never drank and would just turn up wherever he was lest expected…a synagogue, a church or the Mosque but nowhere was he ever accepted.
At midday the sisters would offer him a meal in exchange for a bath, he could have both they invited but he always rebuff the advance. No one could let a silent man starve and each and every evening Arthur dined in the park. A Greek woman who in silence sat beside him, dressed in black. A dirty pale and homeless man and a Greek black widow meeting every evening in the park just before dusk. She bought his meal with a napkin, a bowl and cutlery, it was soup and breed eaten alfresco in the park and always something nice at Christmas, but she would always leave him alone before dark.
Arthur’s life wasn’t always this good, it used to be much worse, he had a family, eastern suburban home, business, futures financed, three Children, a boy and two girls and a beautiful wife, but they all died horrendously. All at once, fatalities, on the annual booze related road toll long ago, no fault of their own, no more deaths than last years, just more than Arthur’s mind could grasp…and he in unvoiced grief fell silent.
Until one day… on the ministers visit, the sisters were very thrilled, he came in a white car, at the time invited, Arthur also came but uninvited.
It was his day center, granted and again without gain he was there, not wearing a false smile, not saying pleasing words, not acting…he was just being there because they both had to be, neither actually wanted to be.
The minister was impressed… he had the tour tasted the sandwiches and sipped tea shared a joke and smiled knowing he would soon be out of there, “Shark!” Arthur attacked suddenly a word designed to get the attention and cause great alarm, …what the fuck do you think your doing here? …Do you think you can change this? Do you even want to try? Do you really care? Just fuck off you arsehole… this is despair!”
Then as abruptly as his outburst began Arthur fell silent, his look of rage turned sweet again. The minister was visibly shaken and looked for some support or explanation…but none came, the sisters were smiling silently at Arthur and the other spectators almost clapped… Arthur had spoken… for all of them in fact.
As the Minister left a Nun was heard to say ‘you should feel honored, Arthur has not spoken a word for fifteen years’.
But now Arthur is dead.
Thanks for your time
based on Descriptions of actual incidents the privileged witnessed.