Sunday, August 23

Shoe Shoe Shoe

THE VERY NARROW street bends at the small supermarket, winding up towards the Royal Exchange, and serves largely as a thoroughfare for people going between L—l St and B—k. The buildings are so close together that almost always there is shade upon everything and down the pavement, against the side of the structures, one cannot help but feel small.
In the elbow of the road, stands an erect homeless man selling magazines.
When he first arrived, everyone discussed him, especially his appearance, because he dresses neatly in a light purple shirt, pressed black trousers and black shoes. He stands with the heels of his shoes together and holds the magazine in front of him. At the automatic doors of the small supermarket he says the name of his magazine in a strange, nasal voice, clipping the title somewhat so that it sounds like—‘Shoe. Shoe. Shoe.’ In a city where many people are ignored, his presence is almost completely unacknowledged. So he stands there, from eight-thirty in the morning until two, then he leaves and returns at half-four to catch people on their way home. He stares from behind his frameless glasses at all of the people ignoring him and his magazine. I see him and wonder what his story is; I wonder this during my cigarette breaks.
One Tuesday morning, during such a break, I was with my friend. We were talking about something or other, when the homeless man stepped away from his post outside of the small supermarket and walked in front of us, muttering—‘Fuckin bone-idle cunts! Fuckin bone-idle! Fuckin cunts.’
We both stared at him.
‘What the hell was that about?’ I asked my friend. He laughed and said he did not know.
The man returned to his post and then started screaming at us. We turned to face his shouts. He was red with rage.
‘You talkin to me?’ my friend asked.
‘Yeah!’ he shouted—‘I’m gonna fuckin kill you, you cunt! I’m gonna fuckin kill you!’
It was very strange. The experience left me unsettled and anxious. I could think of little else and my fingers shook, so affected was I by the seemingly unwarranted outburst. We told our friends in the office about it.
Time passed. If I ever walked past the man I found that his eyes would follow me, so I chose different routes to avoid him. More stories began to emerge: others claimed he had started shouting at them, too. Out of nowhere, he would shout—‘Shut the fuck up!’ to chatting colleagues as they passed him outside of the small supermarket. The gentleman on the building reception told us other stories of him harassing people who had visited. Sometimes he would even grab people. No-one understood the man. One day I saw him with his fist raised at the sky. A couple of days later a girl in the office told us she had seen him in the middle of the street, shouting at the sky once more. I told her—‘I’m a cunt-hair away from reporting him, not to the police but to B—g I—e… The man needs help and it’s not good for him to be out there all day… He ain’t fuckin right.’
Then one afternoon I saw him talking to a man with a clipboard. My friend came in from his lunch and told me he had walked past and heard the magazine-seller being asked questions by the man with the clipboard, official sounding questions; someone had complained, or enough people had complained so that the matter was being investigated.
The next day the man was gone.
The spot where he stood remains, eerily empty. I stare at it and wonder what has become of him, where he has gone. The human was placed before my eyes for a moment and then removed. I hoped he was okay. Every time I go for a cigarette I look at the spot outside of the small supermarket and hope that he is in good hands, that he is being taken care of. However, I suspect he is not. And now the stranger is gone. I have resumed my old route, but still uncomfortable, although for a different reason.

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