Monday, 20 July 2015

By an Italian cafe

Of all homeless people spending their nights in sleeping bags along Oxford Street, Marco seemed the least likely. It’s not that he was Italian. Certainly not his clothes, as torn and ragged as anyone else’s on that straight, never-ending sidewalk. No, I believe it was something in the way he raised his head and looked at you. His eyes were intelligent, sharp, well aware of himself and what he was doing.

So much so that at first I preferred to shun his presence and chose not to give him change on my way to work. People walking past his spot by an Italian cafe would ask him ‘How are you doing, Marco?’ and ‘What’s up, mate?’, but I stared ahead of me, listened to music or thought about another tight week at the office.

Once I happened to be in Oxford Street when it was dark and Marco was lying on his side. Facing the glass door, fast asleep. I looked at his hair, which looked so hopelessly disheveled you could not imagine any gel or shampoo doing the trick. This time, I threw money into his cap and quickly disappeared around the corner. 

A couple of days later I did that again. And again. It was easy now, almost too easy. And then to his face, to his open stare (less intelligent, though not any less sharp). Oddly, roughly one week after that first incident things started to go really well at the office and I was promoted to a position I’d been craving for years. To this day, Marco long gone and my company extinct, I consider that to be the mark of cruelty of the world.