His name is Peter Smith.
As I crouched down next to him on the filthy concrete floor where he was laying on his side, his face almost resting in a puddle and his yellowing fingernails clutched around a wallet of sorts, I have to be honest; I did curse myself for stopping and becoming involved before I fully really realised what I was doing, especially while wearing my new suede boots.
While trying to grind his face in to the floor in an attempt to disappear, or feel more stable maybe, he tells me that his name is Peter Smith, but whispers that I can call him Pete.
I lean over him, my hand on his shoulder, and ask him how old he is.
He tells me he is sixty.
I tell him, while fumbling for my phone, that he doesn’t look sixty years old and as I am connected to the emergency services I notice out of the corner of my eye, his eyebrows raise ever so slightly and he tries to turn and make eye contact with me.
When he does, he smiles slightly, naturally, in surprise.
I smile back at him and want to cry, as people flood by us, without even a second glance.
I decide at this point to stop being such a selfish twat and be grateful for what I have been given.
With glum regard at knowing I am doing the right thing but still not being entirely sure I want to, I take my coat off and rest his head on it, it will be warmer, the inside is fur lined and at least now, this old man’s head is off the floor.
I am a human being and so is he.
If I were lying on my side on the floor next to a church at 10.30 on a Monday morning at sixty years old, I would hope somebody may do the same for me.
He thanks me and sobs.
I ignore him, feeling I too could sob, even more so as I witness him dribbling all over it.
His blonde hair is matted and in his ear, I notice, as I am leaning over to speak to him, he has encrusted mud.
Pete is sixty years old and he has mud in his ears.
His yellowing brown leather jacket, formal brown trousers and old lace up shoes do not tell me he is homeless, they tell me he is an old man who at one point took great pride in his appearance.
How does someone go from that, to having mud in their ears?
It was his shoes that stopped me in my tracks as I was on my way up the hill towards Wilkinson’s to buy christmas presents for Addison.
I may bitch about my new boots getting dirty and my coat (Sob!), but I didn’t even consider walking on, like those around me, I promise.
I couldn’t, even though people told me to keep walking, that he was here all the time, even though my common sense was telling maybe I shouldnt get involved, I stopped and I got involved, because the minute I saw Pete’s shoes, I was stopped in my tracks.
They were like a knife in my heart.
One solid lace up brown kicker type shoe, lying on the top of the other, his knees slightly bent, facing out towards the passing traffic.
Shoes like my son wears, sturdy brown shoes that are built to last.
Pete is somebody’s son.
Pete is sixty years old.
Pete has mud in his ears, and this morning Pete had half a bottle of Vodka for breakfast.
Pete has a story and I want to know it.
Pete has caused heartache to all his family and when the ambulance men get here they will roll their eyes and shout at him.
Pete tells me all this and sobs loudly.
He tells me he wants to die.
I look up to the sky and curse.
Of all the people in all of the world Pete, I am probably not the person you want to have sitting with you now.
Rolling as I am in the waves of a minor relapse.
‘Me and you both mate.’ Didn’t seem like an appropriate answer, so I stayed shtum.
He tells me he is a diabetic and an alcoholic and he wants to die.
He shakes and sobs as I sit back and watch the realisation of where he is dawning oh him over and over again.
It reminds me of the way the immediate and shocking realisation at my brother being dead hit me over and over again any time I got drunk in those first few months.
The pain would get more and more blunt each time.
‘Pete. What happened today can you tell me?’
‘I don’t know.’
And I can tell he doesn’t.
He doesn’t have a clue how he got here.
He tells me he wants to go home and a small part of me connects to something I can not put in to words.
I am connected to being lost.
When the paramedics arrive they address him like an old friend.
‘Hi Pete.’ The brown-eyed one says ‘You having a bad day mate?’
Pete sobs again and I move back after rubbing his shoulder one last time, to let them do their work.
They thank me, and promise me he will be ok, that they will look after him.
‘Bye Pete.’ I shout as I leave, and I blow him a kiss.
‘Your coat!’ he whispers hoarse and I bend down to retrieve it. ‘Thank you.’ He says and I know he means it.
Or maybe he doesn’t.
Maybe he won’t remember me by now.
He probably won’t.
My coat is in the wash; all traces of Pete will be gone soon.
But I have a feeling I will remember him for a long time.
I don’t know why.
It’s just got to me.
He was somebody’s son, and he had mud in his ears.
I wonder what his story was, or could have been, if it wasn’t for the illness, the addiction, and the alcohol?
My boots are fine by the way.
I wiped them down when I got home.
Life goes on for both of us.
I bought Addison a Transformer.