Friday, 3 February 2012
Dreams and Kindness on a London Street
It was the middle of the night and I was deep in sleep. Tucked up warm and secure, I was having a quite unusual dream in which I and two children from my class were trying to escape this fearful sound of shrieking and wailing by sliding up and down these gigantic ravines and slopes, which were all concrete and stone. The dream then shifted its location and I was in their house with their family and I, the two kids and their mum were standing on the landing in our pyjamas. The mum and I were moaning about the shouts and the wailing, and I recall her saying "It had to happen on a night when we can sleep in." The two kids were getting rowdy so I said I would go and have a look at the noise.
I stepped out of the house (now on my own actual street) and rounded the corner, where I found it to be the break of dawn and there was a large bumbling white guy in a thick coat staggering around the pavement, while a crowd of onlookers gazed at him, some of them filming on their phones. He was shouting, cussing and - to the 'dream me' - being frightening. I ran back into the house and locked the door, then ran upstairs and locked the kids into their rooms.
Then I woke from the dream.
The wailing and shrieking continued. I opened my eyes and it was dark outside but there were loud garbled shouts drifting up from the street outside. I laid in bed, ignoring it but listening nonetheless. Curious at how loud it was, I got up and looked out of the window.
Just outside of our house there was a man laid out in the gutter, his feet on the pavement but the rest of his body sprawled out on the road behind a parked car. It sounded like he was shouting angrily and weeping at the same time. "Fucking c**ts!!!" he bellowed. I was stood there, hovering in the darkness by the crack of the silently opened window, trying to ascertain whether he was ok. It was that very limp middle class style of caring which is equivalent only to 'keeping an eye on the situation' from afar. I went to get my glasses to work out whether it was blood swilling around beside his head on the roadside, or whether it was his shadow. Luckily, it was the latter.
I took a photo, just like the gawping unhelping bystanders in my dream; also like in the dream, I felt my heart racing, as though this was my special little voyeuristic treat.
As I was squinting out from the window, another man rounded the corner and shouted 'Oy! OY!'. The drunken passed out man groggily raised his head to look up - I thought he was looking to see whether he was in danger. This other man, quite a beefy young man, walked right up to the drunk man and squatted beside him. He asked how he was doing and spoke to him humanely.
"Why did you stop?", dribbled the streetman.
"Because you looked interesting", replied the beefy man, "and my brother lives just around the corner."
He offered the drunken man his hand, not to help him up but to shake it.
"My name is Andre", he told him.
The drunken guy started to shuffle about and his flat palm started to smack hard against the kerb. The beefy man got up and brought the drunken guy his hat and collected his belongings for him. In my cynical spectator state, I entertained the thought that maybe this whole event would be a charming robbery, or that the kind words were a Clockwork-Orange-like prelude to a violent shoeing. But no, Andre was legit.
As Andre gathered the drunk guy's stuff together, I could see what he meant by him looking interesting. The only possessions that this drunken man appeared to have were the hat on his head, an acoustic guitar and a vinyl record. The guy tried to lift himself up from the kerb, but with Bambi-like poise, he couldn't even straighten out his legs for long enough to support himself, and he barrel-rolled back to the ground.
"Come on man, again", Andre supported. He offered his arm to help the guy up, but he insisted on going it alone (with the aid of the car which he used to balance himself). With uncertain baby steps, the drunk guy was up on his feet and Andre stood by his side.
"You got somewhere warm to go? Come on this way."
Together, with their bobbing staggering shadow following them, they cut down the side street and disappeared.
Need I ask, but whose was the greater care? While I dithered over whether or not he was bleeding by having a good hard squint from up in my bedroom, Andre just powered over to him, sat himself on the kerb and, it seemed, was so supportive that the drunken guy could barely comprehend it. I wonder whether I am in the majority. I hardly think it makes me a good person for getting up and having a look.
Posted by Joffer at 22:39