'Hey redhead! It's a long way down!', shouts a man carrying two lawn chairs in the middle of the road. He's been addressing the builder replacing a window on the first floor of The Pig and Butcher.
I must have laughed a bit louder than I meant. 'Too late to hide', I thought. He noticed my eyes gaping with interest and gave me a big smile with all his remaining teeth.
'I live in the Barclays.' Not paying much attention, I've walked on. My ignorance must have been obvious, but he didn't admit defeat and repeated: 'I live in the Barclays! You know Barclays? The one on Highbury & Islington.'
That's when it struck me! He had all his teeth, it was just the muddled 5 minute gaps that got me confused. Well, that and that this guy is living rough. Until now he only looked positively on the crazy side of normal. His funny smile wasn't so funny any more as I pictured the weight of his drama.
'I've found me these chairs. Look,' told me while folding out both lawn chairs on the pavement behind me, 'they're like new! I'm going to sell these for 10 quid!' Apologetically I declined, even though he was informing rather than offering. As I went on chasing my business he quickly caught up with me. I've asked how did he become homeless. Without any hesitation he stopped, rested the folded chairs against his legs and pulled up his top, showing torso almost to his neck. He completely unveiled his upper body with no shame, in the chill of mid November. There was a huge scar. 'I've been stabbed in the heart!', he said. After a few blank moments the picture in my head was complete and he confirmed my version.
Long story short: got stabbed, long recovery in hospital, lost job, lost apartment, no family, 10 years passed... I gave him some money. £3,20. The change I had. Told him that I'll give him a shout next time I'm around Barclays, then I went on again, chasing my business. 5 minutes later, almost as if the Universe wanted it that way, my plans have changed and I was on the bus 43 heading north towards Highbury and Islington. From the bus I've recognised Tim (the gentleman has introduced himself). Tim had a fresh can of beer in his hand. A bit happier, he resumed to his lawn chair mission...