Now her knees hurt when she walked down the hill to the city. They resisted like springs too tightly wound, rigid, yielding little to the demand of the steep downward slope. She looked down. The tight, supple skin around her knees looked softer, she thought. Hard knees, soft skin. Were those wrinkles? On her knees? She averted her eyes. There was an old man making his way up the pavement. He was shrivelled, like an old vine, his back hunched, his shoulders slumped, his arms hanging low at his sides. His dark trousers were strapped tightly to his hollowed abdomen with a thin leather belt, his thick shirt billowing above them, its sleeves baggy, its front pockets gaping. He carried two bags; they swung inches above the ground as he walked. Everything about him looked heavy, as if he carried not clothes on his skin and bags in his hands, but Life itself. She had draped herself across his back with a deep, languorous sigh and wrapped her sinuous limbs around his scrawny neck. He had grown used to the weight over the years; it had become part of him, heavy like his aching bones.

She went past him without offering the help she thought he needed. Of what use would it be? She crossed the street. The pavement narrowed in one area. An old lady was inching her way to the city with quiet determination. She hurried past the frail figure, her knee sending a sharp protest in response. The city loomed ahead, its busy intersections yawning at her approach.