George is his name. The name he gives himself at any rate. George doesn't really have a name because he doesn't exist. Officially. "Where are you from?" He waves with a surprisingly limp wrist in a direction along the beach. Somewhere over there. "No, not where are you from here. Which country?" George smiles. No, smile is the wrong word. He beams. He does a lot of beaming. You wonder what it is that he has to beam about.
I hazard a guess. "Senegal?" He laughs. No, laugh is not right. He splutters. "Ghana?" Now he splutters and thwacks an ochre palm lined with crevices of deeper brown on to a jeans-covered thigh. He's not telling, is he. Or it's a game. It doesn't matter.
He must get hot. It can't be easy walking up and down, up and down, up and down in the soft and deep sand. In the heat. With long trousers on and a bag over his shoulder. Keeps him fit, he says, and splutters through teeth clenched not because he's fighting off annoyance or anger but because his laughter is his defence.
For now, he's resting. It doesn't appear to bother him that the seat of his jeans will get covered by sand. He rocks from side to side as though there were a song in his head. "Manchester United?" he asks. Paul pulls a quizzical face. "He's a German boy." Momentarily, George appears baffled. You can see he's thinking. Then his eyes light up. "Bayern Munich." And he splutters all over again. The boy is the one who now beams, and George offers a high-five, which is happily reciprocated.
He is sitting in the sand because he is waiting. He hasn't been invited but nor is he asked to move on. He has business. Should the boy have been discouraged? He wanted the sunglasses though. And George is likable. Money has to be collected, as none had been brought to the beach. He doesn't mind waiting. He has all the time in the world. Plenty of time to rest from his endless trudging.
A different George ambles past, sand being gently kicked up by his flip-flops. The two Georges exchange languid nods of the head and indeterminate noises from somewhere deep in their throats. "A friend?" I ask. More spluttering.
I start to think that this laughing isn't because he can't speak English (or Spanish), as he can, but because he doesn't want to give any information. How often does he get asked questions by greater authorities than a group he has encountered on the beach? I would like to know, but it would get me nowhere. When he waved along the sand, where was he waving towards? What was he waving towards? Some pokey flat that he shares with four or five others? Towards or around Bellevue, I'd guess, though I could be wrong.
Heike's returned with her purse. George takes the note (notes) apologetically but graciously. He beams but doesn't splutter. Paul screws his eyes up behind his new sunglasses, sticks his chin out and moves his head towards and away from the direction of the sun. Now George does splutter. "Hey, cool," he says. "Cool," echoes Paul in the way that Germans of any age do, "Koo-ull".
George slopes off, loafing and shuffling in the sand, his bag over his shoulder. What does he have in the bag? More sunglasses? T-shirts? Something else? I doubt it. Not on the beach. Not during the day. He moves away but turns, waves and beams. He's happy, but how can he be happy?
What had George thought that he was going to find when he came from the country he won't admit to? A better life? Had he really thought that? What had he given up in wherever he was in exchange for traipsing along a Mallorcan beach, selling fake goods to tourists with wealth of which he could only dream? How had he got to Spain, to Mallorca? What dangers had he endured on a sea journey from Africa in order to be able to stop by a bunch of beachgoers and, in an almost childlike manner, enthral a child with his pirated wares?
What is it like to be George? To not see his family for years. To post by Western Union what he can for their upkeep. To not be at the margins of Mallorcan society but to not even be a part of it. To know that even if he becomes very poorly he would probably be refused treatment. What does George think of?
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Tuesday, August 13, 2013
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