He cuts with a knife


The man, holding the intricate wooden carving in one hand and an aged palette knife in the other, sat in an old fruit box with his back to those emerging from Goya Station. His occupation was simple; he worked for the best part of the day on a figurine that he was intending to sell, and left a hat next to him as a request for spare change. He neither pleaded for aid nor thanked those that gave it to him. The man knew, as did every experienced homeless person working the centre of Madrid, that pushing his plight onto others would not help him to raise the money he needed for a warm night’s sleep.

The man had borne the brunt of it all: accidental knocks during rush hour by the self-absorbed pedestrians; abuse from those that saw him as a plague upon their city; abuse from others that resented his monopoly on the Goya corner. Despite the difficulties, his attitude never changed. He remained impassive, stoic, invulnerable — his back to the commuters, his face to his work.

“Why are you here?” I asked, on one of a number of days that I walked past him.

“Because I was here yesterday. So I came back today.”

I considered his answer. He hadn’t made eye contact with me, or stopped working, or given any indication that he was interested in my presence. I asked him the only question that I could think of in such a situation.

“Will you be back tomorrow?”

“Quizas.”