Saul

I woke up crying this morning. Don’t normally do that. I’m generally very positive. But something was bothering me and I need to get to the bottom of it. And its okay to cry so long as nobody sees it.
I met Saul yesterday and had a lovely couple of hours. He’s my mate and a bit of a hero. A gentle giant from Portugal. I bumped into him when I was on my uppers in Ilford. I didn’t know it, but I needed him. To cut a long story short, he did his best to take care of me. I had hardly any clothes but he bought me new shoes, trousers, underpants, a t shirt. So I could feel dignified again.
Just arrived in Romford. Its seriously clammy today. Saw the news about the mosque attack in Finsbury Park. Something’s brewing in England and it’s shaping up to be a long, hot summer. The Tories are gonna reap the whirlwind. But it’s not them who are lying dead. I hope they’re scared though. Me and my mates live our lives in fear because of them. I hope, they too, are having sleepless nights.
Anyway, as fate would have it, just as I began to get back on my feet, this government came along and tried to knock Saul off his. He’s been homeless before. That’s why we understand each other like no one else can. The greatest fear for a street person is being sent back from whence they came. Saul didn’t really need to tell me what happened to him. Its in the way he walks. Shoulders back, head held high. Street bravado. But also twitchy. Looking over his shoulder constantly. Scanning the land to look out for danger. I do the same. Whereas I mainline anger to medicate my nerves, he is permanently agitated. No wonder. This country gives him no rest.
He’s studying to be a clinical psychologist, working so hard. TOO hard. But he’s scared of going back to where he was, understandably. He was doing well. He pulled himself up by his bootstraps and got himself a nice flat in Ilford. I imagine he maybe even exhaled for five minutes. Then the government intervened. They changed the ‘rules’ so that where he was previously entitled to ESA (for his trauma) and housing benefit, now he is no longer. He’s left without a penny to his name and facing the fear he might lose his home again. I won’t let him go back to the streets. I don’t know what I will do but I won’t let that happen. But you see, that’s what the government and benefits apparatchiks do. Whole lives destroyed in the stroke of a pen. He can appeal and he will probably win, but what use is backdated money when you have none. He has nothing, and I have next to nothing but I have learned a handy trick. A local supermarket reduces its prices at 3pm on a Sunday. Food they would otherwise throw out. I took him there and helped him fill his freezer. It only came to £9 for enough food to feed us both for the week. So at least I know he’s fed. That should help with his anxiety. I saw another side of him yesterday. There was a greedy man grabbing everything he could get, reduced price, shoving people out of the way to get his selfish mitts on the bargains. Looking at his paunch, he wasn’t exactly dying of starvation. At one point I thought Saul was gonna hit him and I had to whisper to him to calm down a bit, which is rich coming from me, scourge of doctors’ receptionists and canvassing Tory MPs, to name but two. My temper is terrible these days but I’m not seeing my mate arrested over a cut price pie. Anyway, Saul had his moment, barging him out the way to grab some delicious seafood. I’m going to have some when I’ve finished this. Kromer crab, reduced from £4.83 to 45p. Thank you Saul. I told you he is a hero.

This heat is getting to me. And I’m beginning to annoy myself. Really, my temper is awful. I used to be what one would call ‘easy going’. I’m not anymore. I have zero tolerance for bullshit. That’s not grandiosity. It’s just what happens when you’ve been pushed around too much. I just came to the library in Romford, to write this, but my phone was nearly dead so I politely asked the lady behind the counter if they would mind charging my phone. She said it would cost a pound. That’s about 3 per cent of what I have left until Friday after next. I asked her why they charged such a huge amount. She shrugged and said ‘well somebody’s got to pay for it’. So it costs a pound in electricity to charge a phone for 20 minutes so that I can phone my social worker and keep up the fight to not lose the place in which I am currently sleeping? Bullshit. It costs a fraction of a pence, common decency and a bit of human kindness.

I digress, as usual. So after seeing Saul I went down to my old local to see my friends, many of whom helped me through some of my darkest days. I was really excited. I haven’t been properly out in a month, so it was a treat. One I can’t afford but I’ll go nuts and sink into depression if I just stay in my room contemplating the fact that I have to live on £4 a day. I’ll make up the difference singing up at Newbury Park station tonight. Normally I sing Abba, but tonight it might be Morrissey.

Anyway, once again I had that ‘fish out of water’ feeling. Here I was, among friends, talking about their love lives, mortgages, plans for supper the next day. And I just couldn’t fit in. I kept dragging the conversation back to social policy and housing. I am officially a bore. I can’t help it. I don’t do that with Saul, or with my friends on the street, because I know they already know this stuff. But I just want to shout it so loud. ‘I don’t care about your new teabags, LISTEN to me, people are dying. Tonight.’ When will this end? When will I fit in again? Did I ever? Really?

And I’ve lost count of the friends and family who tell me, ‘We just want the old ‘you’ back’. The amiable one. The easy-going one. I smile and try to act like how I used to act, if I can cast my mind back that far, but there have been a lot of near-death experiences in the intervening period, so it’s hard to remember who he was and how he was. And all I really want to tell them, and then give them the option to give up on me and walk away, is the truth. ‘He’s not coming back. For better AND for worse, he died on the streets of Ilford.’

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