I’ve said this since the day we moved in and even before that, had a sense that the area seemed sketchy.
Weeks ago, I was walking home and was stopped by a homeless man, asking for £20 to stay at a hostel. It was supposedly his birthday, though how many times have you heard that one?
Typically, I’m reluctant. I would love to be one of those people who hand out money to the homeless but I’m not. I am selfish, the kind of selfish who thinks they’re generous and shame others when I have spurts of rare giving moments.
But today, I was coming from my aunts house - so I really had nothing on me. I had no cash, no coins, not even my bank cards which I promptly explained to the man in front of me. Also, £20? uhm. I’d like that too, thank you very much. I’d wince at £1 let alone £20.
The man continued with his speech. He just needed a place to stay. It was the New Years. It’d be a nice thing to do. And I repeated mine - “I’m really sorry I just don’t have anything on me, I’m so sorry”.
I tried to walk past him but he stopped me in my tracks, repeating the same tune I could now repeat to you, word for word. I sing my song back and he asks me to bank transfer him from my phone.
In the middle of the road? Sorry but, the fuck?
I’m getting tired of repeating myself by this point, just wanting to go home so I offer to get him something from Tesco’s. “No”, he said “I just need the money to get a hostel”. Again, I tried to move past him but again, he followed.
I was getting anxi.
I was terrified, to be honest. The man looked disheveled and aside from the clear drug use, he also hand his hand in his pocket and God knows where my imagination can run to in these times. What if it was a knife? What if he’d threaten to follow me home?
Frantically, I darted my eyes to the people walking around next to me, silently screaming “HELP ME”. Yet, no one stopped.
I ran over to the Tesco’s as it was diagonally behind me, so I knew I had a half metre of a head start. I called out behind me: “I’m just going to the shop! I can get you something if you want“.
He follows me.
I see him stand outside the Tesco’s while I slip in, pacing the aisles and catching my breath. I tell the lady by the cashier, but obviously, she didn’t know what to do either. “You could wait here till he’s gone?“ she offered, and I took it, sitting on the only bench in the place.
From there, I told my friends and waited. 20 minutes later, I started to feel some hope that he’d be gone. Too soon after that feeling came, it vanished. I felt the blood rush down my body as I saw the man walking towards me in the Tesco’s.
“Are you okay?” he asked, and I thought that was strange. Yep, yep, fine. Just kinda running away from you and what you might possibly do to my dead body. He then proceeded to run through the same speech he did on the outside - homeless, needed £20 to stay at a hostel, it’s his birthday, it’s nice to do, you look kind, don’t you want to help, you look like you want to help. The reality is, I don’t want to help. Not really, anyways. I wanted to be in my bed. I wanted this to be over.
The security guard ushers him away, only because he had entered from the exit and seemed to be bothering a customer.
I saw him wait outside the Tesco's again. It was almost like I had my own bodyguard, one I needed protection against, not from.
As I sat on the bench, I thought of asking someone for help. Just go up to her, tell her what happened and ask her if she could walk out with you. That’s it. That’s all you have to say. It took so long to psych myself up that she had already left, but there were more, i’d just had to tweak the pronouns in my plea and build up more courage.
What seemed like an eternity later, and was realistically about 1 hour of sitting on this stupid fucking bench, I approached a couple who were each offering to pay for their shared basked - they seem nice, I thought. Maybe they helped the homeless man.
“Hi, sorry to bother you, but I was being followed by this homeless guy and I live right there but he was blocking my route home and I was just wondering if you guys saw him when you came in?“ I had planned this. I wanted to know if he was there, sure, but more than that, I wanted to be walked home, but didn’t have the courage to ask so directly.
It seemed to have work as the couple then offered to walk me home. Saying that they’d just pop their groceries in a bag and we can get going. “Really? That’d be so amazing“ I said, acting shocked and overjoyed. I was grateful, obviously, more than grateful, I would've probably given them the £20 for just offering, but I was also expecting it.
The couple finished up and started walking with me. He wasn’t there on the way out, not that I paid much attention - I was focused on the ground and trying to shield myself behind these two lovely humans that I was clearly using. On the 2 minute walk, we discussed the man and how they, too, had come across him on their walk. They hadn't given him the £20 either. They were sweet and I got home safely.
I recounted the story a couple of times - to my coworkers to gain sympathy, to my family to gain respect.
Tonight, weeks after the incident, I saw him again.