Bilal hardly spoke for many years. This did not concern Julian. The boy communicated quite effectively in other ways.
He drew pictures. Thousands of them, if not more. He had an extraordinary ability to transpose what he saw inside his mind onto paper, canvas or anything else which might absorb the mark of a pencil or brush.
When he could not communicate with hand gestures, his eyes, or through the various subtle and subconscious means we have at our disposal, he would simply draw a picture and pass it on to his father. So many were his pictures, and so beautiful and perfect Julian found them, that the inside walls of the cottage were entirely collaged with them.
The outside walls were engraved in permanent etchings, dug deep into the wood with Bilal’s rudimentary etching tools. These hieroglyphics, from afar, were hypnotic when illuminated by the low sun beams that often blazed in the evening beneath the clouds and up toward the home. It was not uncommon for some of the villagers to gather at the base of the hill at dusk and gaze up at the structure, as it faded into the darkness of night. The changing light against the etchings intoxicated us. I was often among that group.
There was no color in his works, because Bilal could not see color. His drawings were therefore cast only in shades of grey and black. When there was any emphasis on hue, it seemed accidental and out of place. This colorless technique was unlike anything the artists in the City would ever employ, as their masters emphasized the use of brilliant color schemes. Nonetheless, something about Bilal’s simple drawings spoke to all of us. Even the empty spaces on his canvas communicated something, as would a brow being furled or a lip being parsed in the midst of conversation.