“Never get out of the boat.” – Captain Benjamin Willard.
When I first saw him it made me happy. I was walking to the hospital for my regular therapy appointment. He was standing on the pavement at a busy city crossroads, ponytail, black jacket, trousers too big for him, dirty trainers. He carried a rucksack – are they even called rucksacks any more? – on his back and in his hands were a pad and a pen. He was smiling.
I stopped by a bus shelter and watched him looking up at the sky and smiling that big smile. It had started to rain but he was absorbing it all with joy, leaving his face upwards to catch every raindrop. Then he started to walk backwards.
He walked backwards down the pavement, making a note of something on his pad. When the traffic stopped for the lights he beamed at the drivers and crossed the road, backwards. He stopped at the bus shelter and made more notes, and smiled, and smiled.
When the traffic cleared the lights and he saw a gap he walked across the road to outside the sex shop, backwards. Another note. More smiles.
“Hey……you fucking weirdo!” and the smell of weed as a white car with low tyres, driven by a man wearing a yellow cap, smoothed by. The passenger laughed. But my guy kept smiling, even as something like a fag packet got tossed at him. He made another note, smiling. Another driver laughed and pointed. But the joke was on them. My guy was happy, so full of happiness he was soaking everything in as fast as he could, even the cold, and writing it all down so he’d never forget.
I stopped again by the corner of the hospital, where a shop sold blinds and pvc windows from the front of a disused garage named: “Hospital Autos”. He saw me turn to watch him, writing it down in his pad in the rain, smiling at me. He crossed the road again, backwards. More smiles. Total joy in the cold and rain, in the dirty streets of my home city.
When I left later he was gone, so was the rain. I walked back to the train; forwards.