I saw a picture on one of Ron Brown’s posts this morning and it reminded me of a very vivid image I have in my mind.
An afternoon in sunny Manchester
I was in Manchester city centre the other Friday, I won’t bore you with the details as to why, but I happened to be sat outside in the late Summer sunshine watching the world go by on my own for an hour or two. A continuous stream of colour flying by my eyes, cool boots here, six hundred quid phones there, students looking lost and scared and ready to take on the world. Hundreds of people passed by my eyes that afternoon.
Only one person has stayed vividly in my mind from that day (actually two but that story has to do with tattoos and is for a different time). I watched him walk past me with a half full (or should that be half empty?) bottle of a decent named whiskey in his right hand. He was wearing grey combat trousers, a pair of chunky looking boots (I’m a fan of boots), a greenish jacket similar to what my husband had just bought from some ‘flash’ shop in Newquay on our recent holiday (we’re not flash by any means and that story’s for another time too).
Anyway, back to my memory. He strode on past in a perfectly straight line with absolute purpose. Only stopping when he came across a wall of plasterboard in his path that some builders had recently put up (I now realise this was probably his set route and the builders had got in his way). Anyway he stopped dead, the half bottle of whiskey dangling from his hand. He placed it on the floor at the side of him and still facing the fake wall looked as though he was reaching for his flies to have a pee. I obviously averted my gaze and started a polite conversation with my husband who’d joined me by this point.
Anyway, as I turned back around, the guy was walking back towards us in the direction he’d originally come from having supposedly given up on his unexpected obstacle. He looked me right in the eye as he walked past and I gave him the friendliest smile I possess and I noticed he was missing his whiskey, I glanced back to the fake wall and the bottle was still there. I told him to ‘wait a sec’ and I went to retrieve it for him.
I handed him the bottle and realised how tall he was as I stood in front of him (I’m pretty short so a lot of people are giants to me), he was well over six foot. Slim but broad at the shoulders, with that nice ‘bandy-legged’ look you get with men who are fit and lithe. His face was angry but his eyes were so beautiful, they were grey-ish blue and they invited you to look right into his soul. Though I could tell straight away it would take a long time to find the way, so troubled they were.
I ended up having a random conversation with him about Lord knows what (I do remember some pertinent bits but that’s for another time too), you see Clark (after I asked him) clearly had issues, how many and what they were I had no idea of knowing in the few moments we shared. I guessed a few, and me and my husband when discussing it later came up with possibly a few more. Alcoholism most likely, homelessness probably, potentially some kind of PTSD thinking of his attire, fitness and manner – as disciplined as an army man. That was for starters.
I enjoyed the few moments I shared with Clark, I made him smile, he made me nervous and I made him feel as though somebody cared (if only for a moment or two in his messed-up day). I snuck a few quid in one of the many pockets in his combats, I hope he found it when he needed it. He offered me a swig of his whiskey, I can’t stand the stuff.
Corny as it sounds, best drink I’d had all year.
P.S. If you spot Clark wandering around the streets of Manchester (it was near Oxford Rd Station), do me and him a favour and tell him someone’s watching out for him, because I meant what I said and I’m not sure if he believed me.
When visiting a new place.
Something you must do above all.
Make sure you buy a Big Issue.
Though it shouldn’t be an issue at all.
Cover: War Memorial