Monday, August 9, 2010
Deus Ex Machina
We appear suddenly from above. The angel and the alien. We do not see him, for we are tentatively approaching the very top of the steep concrete staircase that descends down to the harbour of Victoria. We are concerned with ourselves, for how do I get down there with my power-chariot? Poised above, we want to go down to be within the gather of throngs where the patient vendors are still at their multiples of stalls, where the colourful tourists wend and wind and stand and walk amongst them on the concrete bulk of the very large U-shape. Within it the yachts and dories and tugs and fish-boats jostle for space at the wharf, their masts and rigging a tangle of spider’s nets to catch at the stray clouds of this sun-lit late afternoon. But from above, caught in the golden patch of light as we are, edged up against the black silhouette of the iron-railing, we can see no way down. In my need of my mechanized chair I am machine bound, machine dependent, and the angel beside me, long blonde hair blowing in the breeze, blue eyes sparkling with anticipation at the wares below, is sorely put to find passage for my descent.
We gesture at the alternatives. On the extreme side of the U, I point out, farthest from us, is a ramp I know we can ascend, or descend, but here? Although these steps are fine for the average person, the normal person, the able person, the enabled being, they’re lethal to me. They’d hurl me off my steed, topple me topsy-turvy and roll my conveyance down after me! And I point at the great height of the close-by wall, where a small concrete courtyard way down to the left of the very steep staircase encloses a single tree, some people smoking, a bench, and… then I see him. He is waving directly at me.
No, not waving. He gesticulates. My glance takes in the hobo. He is brown and soiled and matted and dishevelled and alone on the bench. His face, grey bearded and scarred and crinkled looks up at me, way above, the alien in the machine next to the angel full of light, and he hails me with unintelligible pointing. And I look away. And then I look back, and his arm and hand continues to wave and weave, and even at that distance I see that he is smiling, and that his hand shows me the direction back past me, and then down alongside the inside of that great expanse of wall , as though I may discover a ramp. And then he points behind him, and slightly to one side, and I make out the dark crack in the smooth concrete, and realize it’s an exit or an entrance, depending on where one is at.
And indeed, once I’ve retraced my path, the convenient ramp descends in a steep spiral of some six or seven switchbacks before it emerges suddenly into the courtyard of the tree, and the smokers, and the brown man on the bench. And he even appears slightly startled when I wheel up to him, silent as my mechanical machine is, and I feel myself all clean and showered and scented within the proximity of such a one as he usually is taken to represent. “Very grateful,” I say, with authenticity, “Kind of you! Thanks!” His smile reveals a missing front tooth, a mouth of beige and stains. “Saw ya look-ing,” he explains, and seems pleased that I’d bothered to stop. His eyes then shift; check to see if my hands are moving. They flick to my angel, who now likely appears only human. I look deep into the brown of his pupils. He is surprised; then his eyes look back.
“Go with care,” I smile.
And we continue on our way.