I bumped into a guy I used to know the other day in a town centre I used to frequent.
I’d heard rumours that Paul’s luck had gone on a downward spiral for a number of years. He’d always been a drinker but now was apparently almost on a par with the drunks who sit around the war memorial with their plastic bottles of White Lightning cider.
When I knew him, he’d gone through 2 wives & was well on his way to being binned by the third. I believe alcohol was a contributory factor in all 3 disintegrating marriages.
I say ‘I bumped into him’ but this isn’t strictly true. I actually deftly avoided him on the grounds that I saw him first & managed to change my course through the town centre crowds such that our paths didn’t cross. I felt quite guilty about it.
He looked rough. For a start he looked about 10 years older than I expected he would look like, given that I haven’t seen him for a good 8 years. His once, reasonably fresh features were deep red, the red of an alcoholic with a face & nose full of burst blood vessels. He hadn’t shaved in a while, he looked like that was situation normal. His clothes looked like they’d been wrapped up in a plastic bin liner outside the local branch of the Oxfam Society. I couldn’t imagine anyone being proud enough of him to take him home to mother.
I used to know Paul really well. I felt awful about avoiding him but in the maybe half a second I had to see him, recognise him, take in what I could see, evaluate it, remmeber happier times & decide whether I wanted to stop & speak, he didn’t actually look like someone I wanted to spend time with, any time.
It was a real change from the days when we used to double-crew the area car. Paul had been kicked out of the job for drink-driving quite a few years ago. If he’d stayed on the rails he would have been retiring about now.
The years don’t appear to have been particularly kind to him. I guess we all have choices in life.