It was his eyes. It's always the eyes with me. Gripping me. Stopping me. Spinning me round. In the middle of the street.
Deep in that internal chatter that jaunts me along streets so that I can't remember turning corners, walking whole sections of pavement. In that moment the chatterforce glibly forbidding me from buying mini lemon cheesecakes, under any circumstances.
I don't know what broke the marching daze. One minute I was striding it out, amusing myself, the next stopped in my tracks. By those blue eyes. So bright, so compelling. So full of pain and loneliness.
He was thirty at most. Those eyes, so blue so bright. I found myself thinking, he's newly vagrant. This happened to him within these last months. Too healthy in his eyes to have been this low for long. And yet he was. Low as it swings. All in black.
He walked fast, a hop in the middle of the step to move him further on, further on away from this. Escape.
His right arm, in his anorak, like he was holding a shotgun up his sleeve. Or perhaps a book. Or a plaster cast. He held it stiff and to his side, hopping and skipping, moving fast, like a wounded wilderbeast. Lions at his heels.
I stopped and turned round in silence, shocked to see him lift the lid on the street bin. Right outside the cafÃ© where suits were queued for soup and sandwiches. In broad daylight. This man looked in refuse. For something to eat. How hungry would you have to be?
It broke my heart.
I walked slowly on my way, but the magnet of this human being drew me back, I turned to look at him again.
He had hopped and skipped across the road, he couldn't get his head any lower and I thought 'random acts of kindness'. Here it is, right in front of me.
I followed him, crossed the road after him. He was walk-hopping at such a pace, but I saw the way he went and I followed. He turned right at the end of the short street.
The chatterforce back, what if he's dangerous, has a knife, what's his name, how did this happen to him, how do you get this low, what chain of events brings a person to this? Incessant.
I get to the end of the road and can't see him in either direction.
'He must have gone left' it says to me, 'it's the shortest part of the rectangle block to the main road.'
I go left, 'it'll be safe to talk to him on the main road', it says.
By the time I get to the main road he must be a whole block away from me.
I'm looking up and down in disbelief that we didn't meet, that I can't see hide nor hair of him, when it dawns on me. I turned left.
I knew he'd gone right. I forgot in the length of a street. I forgot which way a starving human being turned. A man with nowhere to turn, and I turned the away from him.
I saw him turning right.
And I knew where he was headed.
As I stood dumbstruck at the red traffic light, a van passed me. Some charity organisation. On the back shutter, painted in beautiful black lettering:
"The journey of one thousand miles starts with a single step.
But you have to take the right turn.