There is no other life but this, that’s what he thinks, what he says, ‘It’s like you’ve got all this freedom, well not really freedom, but you can do what you want can’t you? I mean it’s like you’re invisible, they don’t want to see you.’ A woman passes. ‘Please miss, got any change miss? Sometimes they answer. Mostly, it’s like you’re a pane of glass.’
There’s no space in the shelter; carrier bags, quilts, a sleeping bag define territory. His corner is no different. He sits staring along the prom. ‘Couldn’t hack it. Like living in a square box. It was hard. Dunno, it’s like I’ve never been able to handle money, in one hand and out the other, when I’ve got it. Haven’t got a pot to piss in here, but it’s better.’
Imagine this; rough partitioning, cowboy plumbing, the kitchen more of an afterthought, a grudging necessity, space stolen from a cramped room. He takes a kettle off the stove, a cup from the draining board, scalds it. Greasy rivulets run into the sink. Dropping a teabag into the cup, he hands it to me and we return to where we were sitting in front of the open window.
The front door slams. Footsteps echo on the stairs. A door closes. ‘Any time now,’ he says. ‘There it goes,’ that steady, pounding bass rhythm; monotonous.
Closing the front door, he says, ‘Its like that all the time. Does my head in. He’s trouble, man.’
Time passes; days become weeks become months, and then this chance meeting.
‘Haven’t seen you in ages.’
‘Hello. Long time. Lost your number.’
‘It’s ok. How are you doing?’
‘Fine. Left that room. That head banger, he did my head in.’
‘That was a while ago. It was a bit loud, wasn’t it. And now?’
‘Back on the street. I tried, just couldn’t hack it. It’s ok it’s cool.’
The times we talked, times I listened to plans half made, thoughts of returning north, wanting to settle down. And it all comes down to this, his solution: walk away. His life: a series of temporary measures, immediate needs, blank days.