Half a thumbprint

Alec pressed the pad of his right thumb onto the glass of the small window.

‘Half a thumbprint,’ he declared.  ‘That’s all they need to identify a man.’

A deep, uncontrollable sigh made his chest heave with the familiar dull ache. Dejected, he squatted down on his heels and, in one slow, deliberate gesture, wiped the grimy sweat from his hands on his once white cotton trousers. Every movement now, every gesture, seemed deliberate as though his world had slowed right down with any notion of spontaneity lost

He slumped against the rough, stone wall, grateful for its coolness through his thin shirt. Who would come to identify him?  Was that how it would end – with a thumbprint on a dusty window?

As so often before, unbidden tears trickled and mingled with his grey black beard. His fingers clenched around a handful of gravel and brick rubble from the concrete floor and he hurled it at the small window. He had done this many times before. He knew it served no purpose; no one ever heard the rattling stones on the glass, nor did it relieve his mind-numbing frustration, it was merely something to do.

The window was too high to see out and too small to climb through but he could touch it; make his mark. Now, as in the daytime, a tea brown light filtered through, illuminating the darkest corners of his so familiar room.

At a certain point, in the middle of the day, when the light caught the window at just the right angle, the harsh Lebanese sun would shine directly into the room, allowing Alec the opportunity of inspecting the ever-increasing number of festering sores on his emaciated legs.

Today however, his attention was drawn, in fascination, to the patterns formed on the window by the combination of dust, cobweb and fingerprint. Reaching up slowly, he added more prints in the dust. Spitting on his thumb, he rubbed it in the brick dust, delighting in the reddy-brown smears as he added to his canvas. More purposeful now, no longer deliberate, his right arm aching from working above his head. Standing back, he folded his arms and surveyed the results. Today, he had created; he had made his own landscape – a world beyond his Beirut cell.

As the room slowly returned to its tea like gloom, Alex smiled. Tomorrow he could change the world.  Tomorrow…


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