It’s been at least four or five years since I saw him. In the Amsterdam metro station, with a lady following him in a wheelchair. A great big dusky hulk of a man wrapped in scarves, a huge coat, old fingerless gloves, big clunky old workman’s shoes, boots almost.

I still see his picture in my head. He wasn’t grey or brown by any means but all the colours he wore had faded, much like the man himself, so he was shrouded in dusky reds, greys, browns, blues and greens, or so I seem to remember. The scarf or hat on his hat was one of those bulky, knitted, floppy stripey things that are all the fashion today, but faded, faded away like the peeling paint on an old mansion.

Did he use to be a proud mansion of a man? It seems likely, as tall and broad as he was. He looked like a giant to me, that day. So he must have been.

But that day, he was an old, old, ancient elephant bull of a man, a beautiful, majestic son of the earth. Walking with two crutches, he swayed from side to side, taking slow, ponderous steps on that dirty tiled metro floor, swaying from side to side and slowly forward. His head, too, moved from side to side, his eyes on the ground. All he lacked was a trunk slowly swaying with the rhythm of his steps… He would have been at home on the African steppes and no elephant would have batted an eye at him, except to move out of the way in respect of his weary, worn hulk.


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