He is tall, perhaps 6' to 6'2", his height made difficult to gauge by the hunch of his shoulders. He is slim, neither slender nor heavy, his face seemingly amused by the world around him. He is not a handsome man, a nose too prominent, hair grey and a little too long, his stoop at once complimenting and at odds with his ambling gait. His is the black bomber jacket, and jeans worn but clean, the pale blue fading to white with the seasons. We called him the Moocher.
His is a steady walk, not purposeful but knowing, not strident but calm, each tread unmeasured and unweighty. His hands slip easily into his jean pockets, as if they were born there. His lips carry a half-smile, not of amusement and not of pain.
We have seen him everywhere, in this city of ours. The Moocher, walking along, whatever the weather, whatever the time, seemingly aimless. Calls and texts would fling their way across the city, a sighting here, a sighting there. A pattern would emerge, then fall apart, theories raised and discussed, argued over, and thrown away.
And yet he mooched. Step after step, and endless tour of the city, pacing out paths and mysteries invisible to our eyes, obtuse to our minds. Summer would turn to autumn, autumn to winter, winter to spring, and still he walked, the same smile, hunched against the sun or the rain, step after relentless step.
And he faded from our minds, for a time, only to return at the next sighting, at the next gathering of suspicion and conjecture, at each utterance of awe and respect.
Today I sat outside a pub, at a table by the docks of this city, watching the world go by. Around me the gentle hubbub of conversation and laughter, of introspection and duelling wits. I sat, alone, my pen a reluctant tool in my hand, letting the city wash over me, the moments of hundreds of thousands of citizens surging and flowing around me, like the slow silent depths of the sea.
And I mourned for the Moocher.
He was not a wizard, or a guardian of the city, his steps a timeless defence against ancient and unknown perils. He was not a spy, a lunatic, a benevolent god walking amongst us nor a spiritwalker, seeking the paths of his ancestors. He was none of these things, not an angel, not a demon, not a prince torn from another world to dwell here in banishment.
He was a man, walking his path, day in, day out. A man who walked the streets of Bristol so often as to become a part of it, a texture in it's illdefined membrane. He was a man, I realised, lost to his community; a man walking the edge of a vast divide, him on one side, the world on the other. His was not a walk of discovery, or seeking, but one of resignation, the endless pacing of a man who has lost everything but himself, a man, an individual, bereft of his tribe.
I sat there this day, watching the world wheel by; wondering that the scratching of pen on paper, the tapping of the keyboard, the books and the blogs, the endless introspection and self examination; was this the pacing in my head? Like the Moocher, hunched and half-smiling, will I walk the precipice of my own divide, trying to understand, seeing but oblivious, surrounded but cut off, in the midst of yet alone?
One day, will the Moocher be me?