- The Gates are Closing
"Draw me a picture," he says, thrusting the newspaper at me.
"Sure," I reply, smoothing yesterday's newspaper out on the table and pushing the breakfast dishes aside. I didn't know where he got it, for newspapers are hard to find. In fact, I don't have colored pencils anymore, just my pen, mostly for writing.
"What do you want?" I ask.
"I don't care. Something to look at. Something pretty."
I begin to sketch out a mountain and put a few clouds behind it. I trace a small trail up and around the side of the mountain. Lower, I draw trees and people on the trail, moving up the mountain. They seem so real, as they develop from stick figures into personalities, first legs and bodies and heads with little faces, then clothing, hats and coats against the wind. I wish I had the colored pencils back, to add color. Green for the trees would have been nice, blue for the sky, orange and red and purple for the people.
I look around our one-room studio, no [End Page 117] longer cluttered with furniture. I sigh. So they took it all. Left the necessities. An iron-frame bed. A small wooden table with a matchbox underneath one leg. Two chairs with faded cushions. A few mismatched dishes. I didn't think a picture drawn on newspaper was going to make much difference. I could see a layer of dust over the table and the small counter by the bathroom sink. I might as well have spent my time cleaning up. A bell chimes in the distance, and I can smell bread baking from the little bakery around the corner.
"Done?" he asks. "Good." He takes a tack and sticks my drawing on the wall. "It's time to go anyway. Come on. You'll probably need your coat."
I don't say anything, just get up and get my coat from the closet. Not much else in there anyway. Everything has been given away or taken. Besides it is useless to argue.
We step outside the front door. Late morning already, and the weather is changing; a slight wind comes in from the east, pushing clouds. "So," I ask. "Where are we going today?"
"You'll find out."
Busses, trucks and cars pass us in an unending stream, heading toward the center of town, all belching carbon monoxide. We walk in the opposite direction on uneven sidewalks, dodging stray dogs and trying not to breathe too deeply. There are some disadvantages to living in a third world country, I think. I hate the poverty; no social security, no monthly check for the elderly. Instead, they sit on the sidewalk, nearly a bundle of rags, begging. So I take a handful of small change. If everyone gave a little, right?
The air is somewhat cleaner as we cut through to a forest trail. Occasionally we see other people. It's a nice blustery day for a walk, lots to see, pine trees, ferns, a few wild flowers I can't name, and always the birds, noisy grackles and occasionally, much higher, a white egret. This is a new trail for me, though well-traveled. "Where does this go?" I ask.
"I don't know." he replies, breathing a little heavily as he leans into the trail.
"Hey, can I walk with you guys?" A kid of about 10 years old comes up behind us. He looks hungry.
I nod, and the child takes my hand. The trail twists in front of us as we climb. Here and there we see a few people stopped, some for lunch, some taking a break. Why are they here, I think, between breaths. He keeps on ahead of me, one steady step at a time. He doesn't stop at all. Soon we are above the tree line, and the trail curves around the side of the mountain.
The view is surprisingly beautiful from here. We can see mountains further above and lower hills below. Clouds scud in from the east. Blue sky and dark cloud fill the sky at the same time as...