A cold breeze sweeps the streets of the Salamanca neighborhood in Madrid. After a night storm, the sun gleams with playful glares through the green leaves on the branches of the oaks. A carpet of rosy petals offers itself to the high heels of pretty, young, impeccably dressed women while businesslike, elegantly attired men hurry with an air of self-importance to their works.

Definitely, the spring seems to be late this year: the chill of the winter doesn’t rely its grip on the city. The branch of a tree drips in a puddle that reflects the sky, giving the sight of an inverse world, where even the mud may hide a glimpse of heaven. Under the tree, unperceived, sits an old man, wrapped in a green coat, staring absentmindedly at an indefinite, distant point with his eyes in which you can read a deeply sorrowful stillness.

Nobody seems to have enough time to look at him, to notice that he lies there abandoned, to care about his poverty. To empathize with his loneliness. I pass by but I get transfixed by his bleak glance that reaches the very same region of my heart in which I myself feel like him: terribly forlorn and out of place.

I have a sudden need to approach the man—a bizarre thought invades my mind: “He could be my father.” Why my father? He’s just a stranger. I keep fixing his eyes: What is he looking at? Do his thoughts, his attention have a direction still? Or is he jailed into his own world of isolation, forgotten by everybody?

My stomach growls: I enter a bar and while I’m chewing my sandwich I cannot stop ruminating on the odd contrast between the glacial haughtiness of the people who surround me and the lost expression of the old man who sits on the bench without stirring a muscle. I decide to buy a sandwich for him. He should be starving. Is it possible that nobody thinks about his need to be fed, to be cared of?

I approach him shyly and I ask him almost stammering if he feels offended by my offer to give him the sandwich. He tells me that he accepts it gratefully because he can now give it to a sick woman, whom he’s waiting for.

I ask his name and he cuts short:

“Da igual cómo me llame.”

“No matter what’s my name.” I feel disappointed, almost betrayed by the rudeness of his answer, but I can justify it with many reasons: despair, distrust, tiredness… Or is it just that, in our present society, people like him have no name anymore?

“Nobody is my name. Nobody I’m called by mother, father, and by all my comrades,” once said old Odysseus.

Antonio Marcantonio
May 3rd, 2012