Paternoster Tales: Chapter 13

 Patrick

I know what you’re thinking. A man and his dog cannot if they are a – man – and – his – dog be invisible. That he is a man and his dog is a dog, by definition of the word is suggests that they exist and are not figments of your or my imagination. Is has weight. Is is being. And things that are in possession of being are visible. Generally. We are … exactly what, I’m not sure. We exist. I write therefore I am, as someone once said. But we are invisible. This doesn’t apply to Patrick and his dog. They are not like us; they aren’t dead. So they cannot be invisible. I must be wrong to write that they are. Sadly, however, I am not. For as surely as being actually invisible, Patrick and his dog go utterly unnoticed, overlooked, ignored and are thus invisible to most of the people crossing Paternoster Square.

The dog is old … no, he’s ancient … arthritic and the colour of murky night; not quite grey, not quite black, with white hairs around his muzzle like he’s been snaffling sugar out of a sugar bowl. He’s old but still carries his head with an inquisitive dignity. A handsome, gentle boy who walks slowly, unleashed, at Patrick’s shuffling side. Always attentive and always watching.

Patrick shuffles the dance of an old man and inside his heavy, green, fraying jacket, if anyone cared to look, the shuffling makes an angular silver medal hanging from a short ribbon, bump against his thin chest. No-one, however, does care to look. He wanders across the Square most days, sometimes stopping for a coffee. He never drinks it inside and I have often wondered if he bears the cold in order to sit with his dog’s muzzle resting on his knee and his hand resting on the dog’s head. I would if a creature loved me as much as Patrick’s dog loves him.

In many ways Patrick and Harry are alike.

Both carry satchels. Both satchels are leather and brown. One has a patina that can only be acquired after many decades of knocks and scratches and is so very soft and age-defyingly smooth. One is covered in stickers and filled with school books and crayons. One is filled with graphite pencils, charcoal and sketching pads.

One inhabits a world where his head tells him stories about monsters and goblins and strange faces that inhabit the windows. One lives alone but tells himself he is not lonely; how can you be lonely in a city full of people and the stories those people try to hide but wear thinly on their shoulders, visible for anyone to see?

Patrick may be invisible but he sees people. He draws their stories – candid portraits which perhaps are so good precisely because they don’t notice him.

Harry noticed Patrick.

Both noticed me.

How do I know?

Patrick’s drawing of Harry: small satchelled boy, hand open to catch a ball that’s just rising from a short bounce and a face – my face – watching in the polished stone of the building behind him.

This was a surprise. Had Patrick always seen me? On all those days when I’d watched him watching others and sketching. Was he watching me?

How did I know that Harry saw me, too?

Because when he looked at Patrick’s drawing – just before Agatha’s mother screamed – he saw my face and said nothing. It was the saying nothing that told me he saw me.

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