Monday night: Rushing along the still busy street I see him sitting in the warm evening light. Smart suit, good looking, average young business man I suppose – but he’s sitting on a bench smiling, somehow outside the chaos of everyday London life. I press ahead, past the two boys arranging their blankets in the doorway before the black Mercedes picks them up for their evening sojourn. Rushing on, need to get to work, night shift’s a pig but I need the money. I pass a few revellers who I’ll probably be seeing later tonight.
Morning – reverse play, muted. The two boys have been returned to the doorway and are curled up in their blankets for an hour’s sleep before disgruntled shop assistants see them off.
Tuesday night: He’s there again, same suit, same bench, looks happier than yesterday, maybe drunk? No matter, got to get to work, past the boys, Merc pulling up.
No sign of him in the morning; perhaps he’s returned to his life. The boys sleep soundly.
Wednesday night he’s on the bench again. Expensive looking suit crumpled and shabby now. He picks a newspaper out of the bin to read.
Thursday night he’s raking in the bin again as I pass, then sits on his bench to eat the remains of a burger. I want to speak to him but I’ve got to get to work and I suspect it will take more than a chat. Perhaps I’m just being nosy anyway. Would I even notice him if he wasn’t good looking and wearing an expensive suit? I tell the friendly cop about him that night as we sneak a fag and a coffee together outside Casualty during a quiet spell. I don’t see him after that. I hope they found his home. I hope someone was there to welcome him.
They gave you a name,‘Beth Green’, as though you were an abandoned baby, though you had a whole lifetime behind you when you turned up on our doorstep. You were brought in by kind, concerned cops having been found wandering the streets, not matching any descriptions for lost loved ones.
No one knew your real name and you never told us. You seemed to be Indian,“Are you Indian?” we asked. “Yes,” you responded with your charming smile. “Are you Indian?” we asked. “No,” you responded with your charming smile.
We tried ‘Reminiscence’, holding out the unlabelled parcels to you, hoping for some kind of clue, however small. We tried curry powder. “What does this remind you of?” “Curry powder,” you said politely. We tried roses. “What does this remind you of?” “Roses,” you say, looking a little surprised. We show you a video of ‘The Queen’s Horses’. “Ah the horses,” you say, clapping your hands as if you remember them well.
You make a friend on the ward, a handsome old gentleman with an Irish lilt. We see you laugh and smile with him, but you don’t tell him anything either. You could you know; he could be trusted. “Where are you from?” we ask him. “A tiny village at the foot of the Himalayas,” he tells us with a Santa Claus twinkle in his eye.