Site icon Alexander Hammil


It was just after I had left my father’s house and taken an apartment in the city with all the unjustifiable optimism of the very young that I first noticed him, grimy and filthy, tiny and twisted and poxy. For all of that, and for all the red sores that wept milky tears into his collar, there was something fine in his features, some clean nobility hinted at still in the line of his jaw, in the patrician thrust of his nose. I had no money, of course, beyond that required for a basement apartment next to the railroad and the occasional bottle of red wine, but I held myself better than him: I had prospects, and the directionlessness that guarantees success.

I only ever saw him outside the museums. There were five in the city — the two Fellowship Halls, the Harvey, the Ars Publica, and the City Museum — and each was free to the public on a different day of the week. I had some vague idea of making myself more cultured (and a pressing need for heat, though I wouldn’t admit that — my rooms were icy) so I went from museum to museum absorbing art like an ass. He was always outside the glass doors, his eyes bestial and greedy. He never went inside, never once, though you could tell it ate him up not to. He was always outside, looking in, and hating the people who went in and out. He suffered for his patience, from charitable old ladies and belligerent thugs and the police, but something stronger than fear or disgust kept him huddled there, a need greater than liberty, than dignity, than safety…

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