Cat eyes

Sitting in the Pilgrim Reception Centre on day four or five, we enjoy the company of Mr. M. He is 75 years old and frail of body, with two piercing eyes sheltered under two prominent Persian eyebrows. “We have been on pilgrimage five times,” says his wife proudly. You would never tell by the carefulness of their steps or the fervent tone of their prayers. “Each time is special,” he tells me. But this time may be his last time, and maybe that is why we are drawn to him. “Tell me stories,” I ask, and he willingly obliges, at the prison, at the cemetery where he cries over Mr. Taherzadeh’s grave. On day four or five, he shares wisdom of his own. I listen because I respect him now, this servant who chose to be in the English group over the Persian group. “I like you three,” he says as he offers us tea and oranges. In your eyes I see the fire of the love of God. This is what is beautiful, this is life.” We eat some biscuits and smile, although he is serious. “You know,” he says, “sometimes you may look at a person, maybe a man,” he says with a glance in my direction, “and they may have very beautiful eyes—beautiful like a cat. But without the fire of the love of God they are empty, just like a cat.” The pilgrims move all around us, signalling the break is over. On to the next activity, the next holy site, I can no longer remember. I do remember his words as I leave the pilgrim house, the holy land and as I meet others along the way. How could I forget the words delivered from two eyes of brilliant fire.