The Wanderer

Mais dise: on va lui couper la cou.—CAMUS

I

Because his face was always somber, they had always mistaken him for a catholic. The boys would line up at the gate after school simply for the pleasure of seeing his face (hidden under the bowler hat he refused to take off) grow restless—almost mad—as it scanned their own. ‘We confess,’ they would taunt him, ‘we confess, father,’ then laugh, even after he had walked a distance from them, his hands in his ears. Those days the sun did not set until before midnight, and The Wanderer (a fancy name their English teacher had bestowed him one Tuesday morning) would sit by the porch, waiting for the sun to set while looking at his mirror, asking what is wrong.

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II

He wore red for a whole month to mourn his mother’s death, shaved his head daily that his scalp began bruising, drank the foul tea his mother loved: he was sixteen then and thought all it takes for a sacrifice is to be sad.

His father was alarmed to see him grieving so much, yet not without puzzlement, not without doubt. The boys at school gave him the truce he did not want. Some even offered him flowers and the promise of love.

He was shown to a counsellor who told him things he already knew and gave him the same promise of healing and reconciliation.

‘You must love your mother.’ Then afterwards: ‘She loved you, too.’

He pretended he understood.

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