Homeless Mike – Part 2
It’s been a long day – a few long days in fact – and I could use a drink. That’s not great, I know, but that’s reality, at least it is for me tonight.
So I stop off at the shop outside the station and as I come out I see a face I recognise – it’s Mike, the homeless guy I chatted to a while back, the one who told me about his depression and his life, who moved me to write an article about his situation.
So I see him and think, Shiiiiiiiiiit, I’m knackered, do I want to chat to him right now? I’d love to see how he’s doing, but I’m knackered. Plus I’ll miss my train if I do, maybe he’ll be there tomorrow – I’m bound to bump into him again, maybe he’ll be here tomorrow…
And as I’m thinking about it I see people walk past him as he’s sat on the floor outside the station. He politely asks for any spare change and just as politely says, “No worries, have a good night,” when people say no. And I think to myself, Fuck it! He’s here now, I’m here now: Tomorrow may never come… So I walk over to him and say hello. He looks at me as though he vaguely remembers me.
“I’m not sure if you remember me,” I say. “We chatted a few months back. I’m Compo. You’re Mike, aren’t you?” He nods and smiles.
“Yeah, that’s right”, he says. We shake hands and I ask if I can sit down.
“Yeah, of course.” So I put my bag down in a relatively dry patch, away from the slowly drying patch of urine seeping from the corner, sit on it and ask how he’s doing.
“Not bad,” he says, “well, you know, not great, but then again… Could be worse.”
“What have you been up to, I haven’t seen you for a while.”
“I’m actually in a hostel now,” he says, somewhat upbeat.
“Oh that’s great mate! Whereabouts?”
“Oh right, how come?”
“That’s where I’m from originally,” he says.
“Yeah, I remember. How come you’re back there now?”
“Oh you know…”
His words trail off. I ask if he’d like a cigarette.
“You know what?! I would absolutely love a cigarette right now!” he says, like no one’s offered him a smoke for years. I give home some tobacco and we both roll a cig.
“So a hostel, that’s great!”
“Yeah, it’s a roof over my head but it’s not the best. It’s really clean, sterile clean. Not warm at all – it’s like a hospital. I’m actually only up here for a visit…”
“Yeah, well, I had a court hearing today. I got arrested when I was up here.”
“Begging!” I hadn’t realised people could be arrested for begging. For asking for help. For a hand-out. For reminding people that they’re human… Mike’s also one of the nicest, most genuine and polite people I’ve met, not just on the streets but anywhere. Maybe that’s his problem, his burden. I can’t imagine him hassling anyone. There’d be no need to arrest him for being a nuisance.
“Yeah,” he says, “there was one cop who had a thing for me. He wouldn’t leave me alone – hounded me, man. Kept on arresting me… So that’s why I’m up here today.”
“Shit. I know the type, man… How’d it go?”
“Well I jumped on the train without a ticket and got chucked off a couple of times, so in the end I was late and missed my hearing.”
“So what’ll happen now?”
“Well I’ll go back to Portsmouth and there’ll be a warrant out for my arrest. So the police will come and arrest me and I’ll have to spend a night in the cells and then they’ll have to drive me back up here for another hearing. I mean, what sort of a crazy waste of tax-payers money is that?! It’s crazy man…”
I nod and tell him that I wrote an article about him after we met last time.
“Really”, he says, astonished.
“Yeah, really. It was called, um, I hope you don’t mind: The Hopelessness of Homeless Mike. I wrote about meeting you and your circumstances of depression and family, you going to hospital, all that…”
“Wow,” he says.
“Yeah, it had a good response from people. Your story touched people. I think, anyway… You can read it on my website…” I give him my card.
“Oh you gave me one of these before,” he says reading the card. “Yeah, Compo, that’s it! I’ll give it a read.”
“Cool. It might be quite emotional reading for you, but check it out and let me know what you think.”
“Yeah, wow, I will,” he says, somewhat cheered.
Just then a guy disheveled, drunk – angry drunk, I know the type – comes and stands next to us, swaying, a little too close for comfort.
“I bet those fucking cops come out of the shop in a minute and ask what my name is,” he rasps, death-staring angrily into the distance. “You fucking watch if they don’t,” he says to Mike, before rolling off into the night. Mike looks a little taken aback. I’m not sure if they know each other, maybe in passing. The drunk guy doesn’t look homeless particularly, but then you can’t always tell.
I want to ask Mike more – why Portsmouth, after not venturing a mile from the station for so long, whether he’s in a better place now, if he’ll be able to find work now he’s in a hostel and where he sees his future, if he sees one at all…
But I don’t get the chance.
“Look man, good to see you, I’ve got to go,” he says as he gathers his belongings and stands up. “Thanks for the smoke and change, I’ll look at the website.”
“OK man,” I say, shaking his hand. And like that, he’s gone into the night.
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