I was walking towards the bridge, feeling damp and cold, and detached from everything. In my head, I was looking for the perfect soundtrack to this rainy day. Something that would have that sad, cold, wet day feeling to it, and that would also match my pace. A Tom Waits song, perhaps. I was trying out different tunes.
St Mary’s bells’ stroke sharp. I crossed St Julian’s Friars’ bridge, cutting to the Cop. A beggar was at the other end, a rucksack by his side and a blanket over his legs, even though we were in August. People were avoiding him, as they would, averting their gaze, shaking their head whilst mumbling some sort of apology – or excuse, or just plainly and painfully ignoring him.
I was ready to play the game as well when I came near to him. But, to my surprise, he wasn’t begging. And he wasn’t chatting with imaginary friends either. Nor was he trying to make friends with you. He just started his sentence thus:
'Samuel Langhorne Clemens was Mark Twain's real name. He took his name from a
I couldn't believe it - he was offering interesting trivia!
And he also was marking points with me, as I enjoyed reading Mark Twain when I was little, and then studying his works at uni. I thought of maybe going back and chatting to that guy about everything and nothing. Exchanging Mark Twain-related trivia (I remember that, when he was on a roll, he smoked cigars upon cigars), or just interesting pieces of knowledge (like knowing that Krung Thep is the real name for Bangkok, or that achondroplasia is most commonly known as dwarfism). Hell, I could even pay him. It's not like he was begging proper, or holding a piece of cardboard that read 'My dog will bark for food'... Knowledge is inestimable. In my opinion.
And there was something about him. The singing quality of his Scouser accent. The fact that, unlike most bums, he didn’t reek of pubs, of alcohol-sodden carpets, of piss, and smoke, but rather like an old people's charity. It was the smell of closed drawers and creaky wardrobes. The sickly smell of over-sweet rice puddings.
But I secretly wish I'll meet him again on the streets of my little town, and if I have time - and if I find the courage to - I'll go and talk to him about Twain, sailors, and faraway exotic places.