Today, I was having a hard day. Or a hard-ish day more like. I was shattered and waiting for the weekend desperately. I was hot. I was bored. And I’d been stuck in an office for about five hours. I needed a break. So I took a short walk outside my office building. Just around the block.
It was hotter outside. Muggy and city-like. The air felt dirty. It smelt dirtier. But it was fine. It’s London. My city. And I like it. I had my office pass, my phone and a pound in my pocket. I walked past shoe shops, European-looking cafes, restaurants and along the road towards a small church. After ten or so minutes, I came to a newsagents. I needed to buy some gum. A minty one. (My boredom at work made me drink way more tea than usual and this had bad breath side effects.) I thought it would be 50p, so I could buy two. But when I looked it was, in fact, 55p, so I bought one. I put the change, two twenties and a five p in my pocket and left. I turned into a little square where lots of office-looking-types were eating and talking and planning and enjoy the dirty, dirty sunshine.
I crossed this square, with my hands in pocket, jangling my change.
And that’s when I saw him.
His eyes were closed to the sun when I first saw him. You know, how when you close your eyes in the sun, and you feel the heat and all you can see is red? That’s what he was doing. He was settled; almost comfy. But he had too many layers on for this sort of city-summer heat. As I got closer, I could see he was bringing out a book to read. It was crumpled and well-read. He opened it up to read; eyes squinting against the sun.
He didn’t have a pot. Or a can. Or a hat. Or a cup. So I put the two twenties and five pence straight into his hands. I said,
“It’s all I have”,
That’s the truth. He probably didn’t believe me but still.
His hands grabbed the money. They were dirty. I washed my hands as soon as I got back to the office. His eyes saw my hand reaching out to him and grabbed. Before I changed my mind. How much money did he think I was giving him? Was that 45p in my pocket enough? Was it anything? I don’t know anything you can buy in London for 45p. Anything.