I walked along the river
6 August 2016
I went looking for perspective.
I lost my job yesterday.
I wasn’t feeling too good, so I thought I’d walk down by the river. Thought it might give me some perspective. Or at least get me away from the artifice of the city for a few minutes.
I hadn’t walked more than half a mile. Up ahead I saw a guy who looked plainly dodgy. Sadly, in another context, it might have been a reasonable assessment.
He was dawdling, and I held my bag tight as I approached. We made eye contact and said hi.
He was scrawny, with a scrawny, dirty beard. His skin was pock-marked, and in his shaking hands he held an old Walkman and a paper cup with red wine.
Before long, he was telling me his story. He had been run over by a car, and – in his words – lost his flat, lost his cat, lost his woman.
He was homeless, he said. He ate from bins and table-tops. He was waiting for some payout from the TAC, but without a home or a phone, he didn’t know how that would happen.
He said he was an invisible person. He had one mate, who home-brewed red wine for him (hence the paper cup). He said that without that mate, without that wine, he would have killed himself by now.
After a while I disclosed that I had just lost my job, and he seemed genuinely saddened.
He said he never begged for money. He had never asked for anything, and felt totally ashamed to beg.
I asked if he would be offended if I gave him some money. He said that would be fine, so I gave him ten dollars.
He was so thankful. He almost cried. He kept repeating that if I ever needed anything, he would kill someone for me. Sadly, in another context, it might have borne true.
He held the ten dollars tight in his shaking hands and said it would buy him food for three days. I told him that was very sad. I told him to keep talking to his mate, keep drinking the home-brew.
As we parted ways, I stopped to take a photo of myself by the river.
I had come for perspective. Jimmy had given it to me. I hope it last longer than the measly ten dollars lasts him.
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