Today I was on my way to the church of St. Peter in Chains (where the chains are in fact on display), when I paused to look at a stand of used books. I had run out of things I wanted to read so thought perhaps I could find something here. As I was browsing, I noticed that the owner of the stand seemed to be humming to himself, a sad song, I thought.
When I looked up, I saw that he was perhaps a once handsome middleaged man with his arm in a big cast. We began to talk and he told me he'd broken his arm in a fall in the bath, but it wasn't his broken arm that was hurting him, though it was, but his heart. In a long, rambling monologue he explained that the woman he loved, the love of his life, had left him on Saturday. She said she was going to the country with a friend for a couple days. Then she stopped answering her phone and, at last, she did and told him that she had moved to Paris.
His arm was hurting, but his heart, he told me, was killing him. He was going to go to Paris. He was going to find her. I didn't know what to say. I told him I'd broken my leg and it had healed. Things get better, I said. I couldn't seem to get around the platitudes, but my own heart was aching for him. After a while I said I had to go. I lied and said friends were waiting for me.
I walked towards the church and up the stairs with a heavy heart of my own. An accordianist under an arm was playing Arrivaderchi, Roma. I dropped some coins into his hat. But as I walked, I missed those I loved. I wanted to go home and hug them close. Instead I went into the church. I had come here specifically to see the Moses which I had seen since I was young and standing in this church with my mother. Now once again I gazed at Moses. His body erect, his gaze turned away, his long white fingers, wrapped around what we have come to know as the Ten Commandments.
The tablets rest under his arm, but it is his face I recall. The face of a man who has spent forty years in the desert, has seen a lot, and now has returned with ten sentences to show for his time away. It came to me as I looked at Moses. I understood what Michaelangelo also must have known. Moses was a writer too. He carried his writing in his enormous, white hands. He too had been burdened by the sadness of others. He was an old man now. He had his own sufferings. I saw it in his eyes even as he clutched his life's work under his arm.