Just as I think I have discovered the limits of my gullibility and stupidity, I go and surprise myself further. The weekend before last, Nipper gave me a call (yes I am using his ‘name’ but I think on balance he’ll have to take this one on the chin). He kept calling me throughout the day (Saturday) when I was working in the toilets. It was quite a nuisance because I was so busy but I agreed to meet him straight from work. I knew what it was about because he kept saying he was going to ask me out. I arranged to meet him at a mcdaycentre (I had some of the vouchers saved). So indeed, as expected, he asked me out again. I replied that he is a great guy but I have decided on balance not to go out on a date with anyone until I am off the streets and am a little more sorted in my life (in truth I am in one of those moods where I feel I could quite happily never go on another date in my life). He asked me what had happened on the date with the other guy I’d told him about. I haven’t mentioned this guy before but I’ll refer to him as The Trolley because that was a jokey nickname I gave to him. I told Nipper that although The Trolley was sweet I had decided this was one of my resolutions I had decided to go back on (the resolution being that I would go on a date with anyone who asked). I told him I still liked J and for the time being I had more important things to concentrate on.
Nipper then told me that J had a new girlfriend. Now from this point track the things that Nipper says and see for yourself how quickly I lose all track of logic when I am upset (which I will mark with an asterisk for my own benefit as much as anyone else’s). He claimed that J was dating someone from college. I believed him (* J had previously moaned about how much he hated the people on his course and his teacher). Oh, I said. It doesn’t matter. It’s more for my own benefit that I am not dating than anyone else’s.
After we’d finished our coffees, we were walking along the Strand and Nipper asked me whether I had seen J at all. No, I said. Had I rung him? No, I said; I don’t want to bother him. He told me that J had started drinking again and had dropped out of college (* but didn’t this just contradict what he had only moments ago said about him dating someone from college?) He asked me to try his number and I did but the phone was switched off. I asked him about his place in rehab. He said he had just that day come out which I didn’t question (* several people at the daycentre had told me that they had seen him that week). He said he was sleeping rough again (* he didn’t have a sleeping bag on him). He said he would call J and he appeared to dial his number and talk to him (* erm, I’d already just dialled his number and the phone was switched off). They appeared to chat for a while and then he hung up and said J was leaving the country and going to Ireland – the daycentre had bought a ticket for him and he was leaving in the morning. He said he was going to go down to Victoria and talk to him before he left and convince him to say goodbye to me. I said how are you getting there. He said he had an oyster card. I said I was going to go with him (I had found a one day travel pass that morning). I ran to the bus stop. When I got on the bus he half-heartedly patted his pockets and said he didn’t have his oyster with him so I had to buy a ticket for him.
When we got to Victoria, Nipper told me that J was drinking in the grounds of Fraggle Rock (* J had told me that in all his years of drinking he had never drunk on the streets – he had only ever drunk in bars as he refused to sink that low). This jarred with me because of what I knew about J but I didn’t really engage with my doubts. We were running round all the streets of Victoria looking. Then Nipper tried his number again but it was switched off. He called another person. This person he claimed was a member of the outreach team. He appeared to be in conversation for quite a while (* Nipper NEVER has credit on his phone – he always just buzzes me and I have to ring him back or if he does use the phone it is for no more than 1 or 2 minutes at a time). Nipper said that J had changed the time of his ticket and he was leaving that evening at 9.30 p.m. from the coach station instead of the next morning at 9.30 a.m. (* it didn’t cross my mind how someone drunk out of their head would manage to do this, let alone whether National Express would carry someone in that state). I said we still have fifteen minutes we can get to the station in time. We ran to the station. When we got there we were told there were no coaches leaving for Belfast that evening. I was shouting at the information people asking how someone would be able to make that journey through different connections because Nipper kept insisting that this person from outreach was in contact with J and was passing on this information (* this was part of the source of my anger at the daycentre which I will explain later – it never crossed my mind that in fact this, if true, was strictly confidential because both B and Nipper had previously claimed to have been told things by staff that I would have thought were completely confidential). Then Nipper claimed to be ringing a member of staff at the night shelter for further information. He claimed that all these people knew J and spoke to him on the phone (* but, seriously, where was my head at this point?)
National Express told me that there were no buses leaving for Belfast until 3.00 p.m. the next afternoon and yet for some reason I still believed that J would be travelling on his “original” ticket at 9.30 a.m. the next morning (* ?!) I was in a real state. I thought he had started drinking, that I had caused all this because I had embarrassed him and that the staff at the daycentre hated me and looked down on me because they saw me as this silly person who had waltzed in and caused major disruption in other people’s lives, people who had serious problems unlike my own trivial ones.
Nipper now claimed to be on the phone to one of J’s friends who he said was going to jump the train from Rochester to help him look. He now claimed that J had not left his hostel for the street but had in fact moved into a squat (* he had, in the space of a couple of hours, completely changed the tale several times but I was still going alone with it, no questions asked). He told me to go back to the West End and look for him there. He would look all night for him. As we walked back to Victoria, we popped into the mcdaycentre to see if anyone had seen him. As I turned and left, a group of other homeless I recognised called to me. They asked if it was true I worked for a solicitor. No, I said. I work for ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬________. Well, fuck off they called out to me. We don’t like your kind. I said I’m not a _________, I work for __________. Fuck off, they said. These were people I had been saying hello to since first coming out on the streets and I suddenly got really angry at the injustice of it all. I was exhausted, I had been working several weeks without a day off yet had no money to my name, my taxes were paying for these feckless ***** to sit around all day doing nothing with their lives, I was lonely and felt rejected by the daycentre and yet alienated from other homeless people. I felt like I was in a no man’s land. In a quiet and low voice I said and never meant anything more: “No, you fuck off.” And I turned and walked out.
Out of time, will continue tomorrow…