A few times a week I walk along the river from my home. The view is pleasant in an organised way.Nothing left to chance, each tree is planned, but still my eye is grateful for the view. Amidst it swans and ducks live out their lives, tending to their young and foraging by the bank. In them you see the timeless dance of life, unfazed by our momentary concerns. I smile at them and pause to say hello. Do I have bread, if not then I am of no use . Having none I continue with my walk. Soon I arrive at a cafe of my choice and pick a table set out on its own
Sitting there, engineering a moment of peace out of the bustle of the morning rush. Drinking a cappuccino at a white plastic table, sitting on a white plastic chair, pretending this is Paris while acknowledging it’s not. I look at people promenading past my seat. Of course, they don’t promenade in England. They are merely going from A to B and I am re interpreting their motion to fit in with my needs..
A man walks by, not so much walking as jerking: his arms waving furiously as he tries to get his point across. “I told you.. I told you”. He keeps repeating the line, but he is talking to himself, and I have no idea what he is referring to. I could ask him, of course, but god knows what would happen then. Opening the door on his frenzy, letting the mad dogs out to tear and wrestle with my composure. No sir, not me. Instead I cling to the first lesson of street survival . “No eye contact”. Keep it general. .If all else fails look at your paper but do not engage with the local population. Apart from him we all know the rules, talk at volumes which protect our privacy, discuss nothing which will give the game away to those whom we don’t know, look composed in a sea of uncertainty.
Reckless though I pause to look around. Another man has seen what I have seen, and jerks his head as if to say “Whatevers next”. We smile but keep it brief, no need to talk.. That fragile conspiracy which says that life is planned, while we all know that it is not, is shaken by the passing of this man. Thank god he didn’t pause to look or stop.
Somewhere out there are people that he knows. who remember him before it all went wrong; the drink or drugs: some crisis I cannot name, has left him out of orbit with the rest. So he moves by. Short of medication he can’t find. A wild asteroid passing through our space. Should he collide with us will all be lost ? We cannot say. Pricked by the sense I should have done more, I look around but now the man has gone. One day we might be him, who can tell. Lost in clouds of madness, out of reach. I wish to find him and search but without hope. He reminded me what I always thought I knew. Most of us have friends who loves us. Perhaps the kindness of strangers is felt by just a few.