The first thing he said, once he sat in a train full of people, was: Fuck me. Those words were whispered, but not tentative, quite limpid, like unchallenged truth, like an axiom. So I heard him. And I remembered a story, which I copied into my notebook, to retell in a book I’m writing.
Gustavo, the shoemaker, is old and dies. He dies in his shop whilst repairing a pair of sandals. An angel accompanies him to heaven. At one moment the angel speaks: If you want to, you can now look down, and you’ll see the footprints of your life. The old man does so – and he sees the long trail of his steps. Why is it, he asks, that two or three times, for quite a long way, my footprints stopped, as if my life had ended and I had died? How is it possible? And the angel laughs and replies: Those were the times I carried you.1
The storyteller tells us: All stories are also the stories of hands – picking up, balancing, pointing, joining, kneading, threading, caressing, abandoned in sleep, cutting, eating, wiping, playing music, scratching, grasping, peeling, clenching, pulling a trigger, folding.2
I now attach a copy of a card I was given, days earlier, by a woman. She said she was deaf. She walked around the subway car, requesting the kindness of strangers, handing out cards. One side read: Hello! I am a deaf person. I am selling this…Deaf Education System Card…to make my living and to support my family. Would you kindly buy one? Pay any price you wish. Thank you! (Over)
Over, on the other side, alphabetized fingers and palms – pointed, bent, rounded, firm, held, triangulated, askew. Most importantly, some of the fingers, held together, resembled the gesture anyone makes when lifting a thing, or attempting to lift a person.