In front of the WTO building.
He was waiting on the median, waiting for the cars to stop.
The Porsches, the Mercedes', a Bentley, a Rolls, and others.
Leaning heavily on his cane, his eyes fixed downwards he limped from car to car.
Some windows never came down, others waved him away.
A quick hand emerged from some, dropped a coin or two in his cupped palm.
Guilt money is what I gave him.
A few francs into his hand.
Merci, he said..
His eyes skittered away from mine.
And I saw the barely formed peach fuzz on his chin, by his side-burns.
I've seen beggars all my life and, yes, sometimes they all tend to blend in.
But sometimes, one of them unwittingly reaches out and breaks through the curtain that separates us in this land of plenty, of more than plenty.
Does the money go on drink? Drugs? To a crime boss?
Or does it buy something to eat? A brief respite from the hardness of the tarmac underfoot? Some softness in a life where other options have been discarded?
We can never know this.
Do guilt money givers deserve to know this?
Do I need to know what my guilt money buys for the temporarily visible?
In the side-view mirror I watch his body twist and sway as he makes his slow way down the line of cars behind me.
And I think again of the smooth peach-fuzz. He was somebody's baby once, not so long ago?
Held. Loved. Fed.