I followed him to his home, the slum
Bearing the insignia of your destitution,
You smile at me innocently, in awe, with measured restraint,
As you collect fruit from the garbage,
Searching through the mess, your eyes down, your face composed,
You bend with deliberation, patiently shifting through the boxes,
Every minute counts, dusk is setting in and patience is running thin.
Brown hair, hazel blue eyes, a sharp nose,
Ragged clothes, messy hair, a broken sandal.
You could have been my cousin, my niece,
If only fate had been more magnanimous,
If poverty had not tainted your childhood.
The owner kicks you, abuses, threatens,
Yet you continue collecting food from the stinking pile.
Your eyes flare up in protest, your shiny eyes rebel,
The words won’t hurt, the stomach howls back,
Hunger takes over reason, trumps dignity,
The scavenge has been successful, tonight hunger shall be resoundingly defeated.
I stare at all this, resting my head on the wall,
Seeking support from the barrier,
As I fall and fall deep within the confines of my soul,
I follow you to the slums, pulled on,
You stride cautiously, holding the bag of fruit,
Protecting it from the gaze of onlookers, wary of strangers,
Cars flash by in speed, dangerously close to you.
The danger does not perturb you, does not matter much,
Darkness has descended, you must reach the safety of home.
You become conscious of being trailed and stare back,
And your gaze, the vacant look, the fear in the eyes,
The submission, the pain, the horror,
Breaks something inside me.
I don’t know what has cracked,
But the damage is permanent, irreversible,
I cannot return your gaze, the powerful stare,
I realise that you observe the black suit I adorn,
The grey shoes I wear, the shining watch on my right hand,
The careful knot of the tie, the cologne that emanates from my skin,
You remain silent, heart burning, soul alight,
My eyes drop, my head lowers,
And my conscience erupts.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.