Gary & Flopsy – Part 2
I return a couple-of-drinks-later with a friend, and Gary invites us to sit down. We chat some more about Flopsy, and I ask Gary how long he’s been on the street.
“Oh, you know, a long time now… Left home when I was 16…”
“That’s terrible, how old are you now?”
“I’ve not always been on the streets, though… Had my ups and downs… Yeah, I lived in Israel and Holland for a long time…”
“Why did you leave home at sixteen?”
“I had to, man. I had to run away… Me mam’s boyfriend tried to kill me, like…”
“Yeah, tried to gouge my eyes out.”
“Shit man, sounds terrible.”
“Yeah well, fuck him. It’s more me mam that fucked me head up, like!”
“Yeah, she was more of a, you know, mental bully. Used to tell me I was retarded, cos I was dyslexic, like… Tried to get me committed…”
“Jesus, Gary, that’s awful.”
“Yeah, well… I speak three languages now, so how’s that for retarded?”
“Haha, right on man,” my friend says.
The conversation turns to Flopsy as Gary starts fastidiously brushing through the dog’s coat, which he says he does for hours a day, always putting the loose hair into a pot and getting rid of it later. “There’s not many that would do that”, he tells us.
“He’s a bit sleepy, isn’t he?”, I say, pointing to Flopsy. “Been doing a lot of walking?”
“Yeah, walking, pulling… He pulls our cart around and I steer it. He’s pulled half a ton of scrap metal before!”
“Woah, man!” my friend says, “he’s a beast!”
We talk a bit more about how Gary’s upbringing affected his life.
“That’s the reason I’m so fucked up, cos of all that shit growing up. And me brother, too… He’s proper fucked up. He stayed with them longer, see. And now he’s into all sorts of shit, occult stuff man, it’s a bit weird… But then, I suppose I’ve been through a lot of bad stuff since then, too.”
“Just shit, like. Just life. I’d like to see someone do a mile in my shoes and not be fucked up. Most of them would either kill someone or kill themselves. The shit I’ve seen…so many things…”
“Have you ever been attacked on the streets?”
“Yeah, of course!”
“Yeah, they tried to kill me before.”
“A couple of guys, I can’t really remember. I was off me head at the time, wild, you know.”
“They battered me with a lead pipe and a golf club, fucked me up. My face, my ribs… my legs were shattered…”
“Shit… How were you ‘wild’ then? Booze, drugs?”
“Yeah both… And I had Cocaine psychosis at the time, when I came back from Holland, like, so I was just, you know, fucked… But I’m alright now. Like, the booze still gets me, but I try not to do it. My life’s just him and me now,” he says, patting Flopsy.
“So what next?” I ask.
“Day by day, really, isn’t it. Tonight probably on the street, it’s not too cold. And I haven’t got enough for the shelter that lets you have dogs there.”
“How much is that?”
“Twenty-five quid?! No way?”
“Yeah, but it’s a good place, like.”
“Are you going to see your brother anytime soon?”
“No, I don’t think so… I’ve got a son in Israel, but I doubt I’ll get to see him either.”
“How old is he?”
“He’s twelve now. I called him Dean, which means ‘Justice’ in Israeli. I didn’t know it at the time, but it’s alright that, isn’t it!”
“Yeah. But you don’t think you’ll ever see him?”
“No I don’t think so. I’d like to but, you know, his mother, she, well, you know…”
We talk a while longer and I give Gary some money, a note or two, a start towards that hostel for the night at least. As we’re saying goodbye he says, “Take my number,” and pulls out an old mobile phone. “I don’t have it on often, but if you’re in the area and want to chat, let me know and I’ll try to text you back, like.”
“Alright, yeah,” I say, swapping numbers with Gary.
We say goodbye and my friend and I walk off down the high street feeling a little sad, a little thoughtful, a little guilty and very fortunate.