At this point he had died two days previously. Practicalities aside, we'd not spoken of it.
"[Tired Dad is] not a half-bad writer" - Paul Rose. "Tired Dad can get to fuck" - Alistair Coleman. "You must be thinking of yourself mate" - Richard Herring, in the world's weakest come-back ever.
“Do you think he’s dead?”
It’s not a phrase you often hear at two in the afternoon.
I join the rest of my colleagues at the window on the second-floor of our building.
Me: Christ. How long has he been there?
The rain pounds down, as it seems to have done for the last two months. The city looks set to flood again. Again.
Colleague#1: About half an hour.
We’re looking at a man slumped on the pavement across the street. It’s difficult to see any detail due to the black sky. The rain is so heavy it is also hard to see more than a few feet ahead.
A biblical clap of thunder shakes our windows followed by forks of lightning you only see on specialist satellite television channels. The man does not move.
Me: If I were him I’d have gotten-up by now.
Uncannily Similar: He’s dead.
We’ve all stepped-over bodies on our way into work of a Monday morning. It’s that sort of city. But this is unusual of a Wednesday afternoon. Considering the weather.
Colleague#2: He’s probably a tramp or something.
Colleague#1: Have you seen his trainers? They’re spotless. There’s something badly wrong there.
Thirsty Kirsty: Let’s just go down and have a look.
Fuck it. Yes. Why not.
Me: Right. Come on then you lot.
I grab the nearest umbrella and head for the double-doors that lead to the lift. I dramatically smash them open and turn around to see that everyone is carefully inspecting their fingernails. Like that scene in Jerry Maguire.
Me: Great. Brilliant. Thanks.
I stab the ‘G’ button in the lift with unnecessary vehemence.
The six wide-eyed ladies on reception look at me.
Me: When was the last time that dead bloke across the street moved?
Head Receptionist: Oh God at least forty-five minutes. We don’t know what to do. Somebody passed-by and shook him and he just fell over.
Me: Right. I’ll have a look and if it’s grim we’ll call the paramedics.
H.R: Oh thaaaanks Tired.
Me: Yeah. Ok.
This is bollocks, I think to myself as I cross the street. I was quite happy sneering at my twitter feed and pretending to work. It’s fucking pouring-down out here.
I shake his shoulder. Nothing. He’s as limp as a Rich Tea biscuit that’s been dunked for too long. As my knowledge of rigor-mortis is based on having seen two episodes of Silent Witness I don’t know what this means. But he’s not responsive.
Aware of the dozen pairs of eyes watching me from across the street I shake him a bit harder. He moves his head, thank fuck. And makes a ‘aaampphh’ noise. I’m hit with a blast of raw alcohol.
It’s raining. My sympathies are running low. I shake him some more. Quite roughly now. He is annoyed, from what I can gather. No-one likes rude awakenings, I suppose. Although I’m now quite pissed-off also.
Me: Have you been drinking?
Stupid question, really. He nods a bit. The white trainers were a red-herring – they’re actually filthy, as is the rest of him. Alcohol is not the only stink now apparent. He’s a young man and hasn’t shaved or washed in at least a week.
Me: We need to get you out of the rain, ok? You’re going to get pneumonia.
Despite his unhappiness at been aroused from his slumber I hook an arm under his right armpit and attempt to haul him to his feet. I think of Colleague#2 who plays rugby at weekends and is warm inside and not dealing with someone who could stab me at any moment whilst all nine-skinny-stone of me is out in the rain dealing with this cracker.
Me: Put your feet down. PUT YOUR FEET ON THE GROUND. PUSH UP WITH YOUR LEGS.
It’s fucking pouring down.
Between the two of us I walk him the twenty yards to a small precinct. It contains a Ladbrokes and not much else. He slumps to the ground once more.
Me: Sleep it off, eh?
He’s already unconscious, but at least there’s a roof over his head. I head back to my building and update the Reception ladies.
Me: He’d just had a skinfull.
Reception Ladies: Awww thaaaaanks Tired.
I don’t tell them his drinking binge probably started weeks ago, that any spare food money he had he’s spent on white cider and that it’ll probably be weeks until he stops, at which point he’ll realise he has nothing at all.
I press ‘2’ in the lift and go and wash my hands. I stink.
And it rains and it rains.
Twelve years later and I’m not late for work but I have just completed a long train journey.
I work in the North-East of England, it’s not a good job, I don’t do well and I live in a terraced house I can barely afford – small back yard, tiny garden, shitty kitchen, all that – and I’m penniless soon after I’m paid.
I grab a taxi outside the station. I’ve just travelled several hundred miles to the South-West and I’m not keen on the fifteen-minute walk to my lodgings.
Random Taxi Driver: FUCK ME! BEEN A WHILE. WHERE YOU OFF TO?
He’s one of those over-familiar sorts who pretend to know everyone. Brilliant.
Me: I’ve forgotten the street name. If you go to Name Pub, take a left up the hill and that’s it.
RTD: THAT’S IT, PAL – IF YOU KNOW WHERE IT IS, I’LL FUCKING GET YOU THERE!
That’s now two ‘fuck’s in as many minutes, it’s all a bit unsavoury and I’ve had a long day already.
RTD: STILL AT THE PAPER ARE YOU, CHIEF?
How does he know where I worked twelve years ago? And why is he speaking in Caps Lock?
I stare at the side of his face. It’s only bloody John The Taxi, isn’t it?
I try and figure-out the chances of this. It’s a small town in the South-West so I suppose it is quite likely.
Me: No, I left a few years ago. Moved away as well.
John The Taxi: FUCK ME. THOUGHT IT HAD BEEN A WHILE. HOW LONG, YOU RECKON?
Me: About twelve years I think.
JTT: [Briefly hitting the brakes] TWELVE FUCKING YEARS? USED TO LIVE IN THAT BIG HOUSE, YEAH? WITH THE FUCKING PRIVATE CARPARK, YEAH? WHERE YOU MOVED TO THEN?
Me: Christ could you just watch- Erm. Back up North.
JTT: WHAT YOU BACK HERE FOR, THEN?
Me: Well, I have a son and a daughter now. They live here. Me and their mother didn’t make it, she moved back here, so, you know….
JTT: [Briefly hitting the brakes] HOLD ON! WHERE YOU STAYING? NOT FUCKING WITH HER FOR FUCK’S SAKE?
Me: Really, could you just watch before you do that? The road, I mean. Behind us…I just want to get there in one piece.
JTT: YOU AIN’T FUCKING STAYING WITH HER THOUGH?
Me: Ah, no.
JTT: THANK FUCK FOR THAT. YOU DON’T WANT TO GO DOWN THAT FUCKING ROAD, CHIEF. TAKE IT FROM ME. FUCK.
Me: Ok, then.
I don’t ask him to elaborate. This is, after all, a man who prefers a bowel movement to actual sexual intercourse. God only knows what stories he has to tell.
JTT: FUCK. ANYWAY, HERE WE ARE THEN.
Me: Yeah, ah, thanks.
JTT: TWELVE FUCKING YEARS!
It’s like that scene in Grosse Point Blank but without the inherent likeability of all involved.
Me: Ah. Yes. Eight quid? It’s been five minutes. That's gone up.
JTT: Everything changes.
Oh leave me alone. They asked really nicely.