He wears a chain of dark brown beads. His hair is pulled back in a neat ponytail. Several tendrils have escaped the bunch and cling to his sweaty temple and neck. He sits on his throne located somewhere on Regent Street.
His throne is a broken blue plastic chair and his kingdom consists of a few feet of dirty Georgetown pavement. From this prime seat, situated atop a plywood stage, he rules his only employee and smiles at passing customers.
I am hunting his kind today. I approach him but he tells me his mood isn’t right at the moment, that his mind is taken with other things, and he’d rather not speak about my sort of things today. Instead, he begins telling me about what he thinks life really is.
Bizarre does not begin to describe my encounter with this particular character that inhabits the city’s main commercial street.
It’s a hot, hot day in the city as usual. I’m decked out in jeans, a vest, a cotton shirt and I even threw in sunglasses and a straw hat. As I bounce along the Georgetown Streets I smile at everyone. I know many people and it’s easier to smile when I’m hot. If I don’t smile I’ll end up fretting and that just isn’t good for my stress level.
I smile at his employee and attempt to speak with him but he points to the plywood stage. I have to speak with his boss, he tells me, and promptly goes back to doing his share of smiling with customers. I smile at his maharaja next and promptly get a lecture on spirituality.
Sadly, this is one of the many times I get myself into conversations I’d rather not be a party of. How to get out? Usually I endure it for about quarter of an hour before I deem it decent to ditch the talker.
But as he began telling me about my “purpose”, “journey” and “ignorance” I begin to realise that even one minute of listening to this man would be decent. I try to tell him I’m leaving but he says I should wait a little more. A little more? I silently groan.
As he tells me all about how we Guyanese can live “the good life” his eyes follow his lone employee. He too smiles a lot. He smiles at all his customers and he smiles even more when they are trying to talk him into discounts.
At the end of his ranting and my nodding he looks me straight in the eyes and says: “Well child, time is a very valuable commodity and I’d say I’ve given you a lot of mine today”. And then he smiles.
What the heck? I endure his strangeness and he believes that he has gifted me time. Talk about irony. What about my time?
And really if I had never spoken to him, if I had just glanced at him while bouncing by his throne, I would have never guessed that there was such bizarre depth to the man. I would have thought that he’s just another down-on-his-luck citizen trying to hustle a dollar. (firstname.lastname@example.org)