From an old website, Alien in Montreal
I can see the man, in the distance, and I know that he has decided to home in on me, to beg for some change.
On some days I attract the needy like wasps to cider.
I don't try and avoid him, but rather walk on my intended path, even though it now has the obstacle of him in it. He's in his mid thirties, tall, strong looking, in fairly clean clothes. As I get closer I can see that his face is scarred, burnt, and leathery. I glance at his hands, they are the hands that my mother would describe as 'strangler's hands'. The knuckles are lumpy with thick scar tissue – ever the sign of a man who has had many fist fights.
'Got any spare change?' He says, as I approach.
'Sorry, no.' I say, and keep on walking.
The man doesn't give up, but walks alongside me.
'You know, I was asleep back there,' he points backwards, 'it's my patch you see. Full of rich folks, Ferraris and all sorts park there.'
'Ferraris?' I ask, and then wish I hadn't.
'Yeah, so anyway, I'm there and I've made thirty bucks, and I fall asleep, and when I wake up someone's taken it from my hat. Thirty bucks!'
I shake my head to show that I'm listening. We're still walking.
'Who would do that? Steal thirty bucks from a pan-handler?' He sounds sad as he says this, as if realising that the world was full of bad people, for the first time.
'That's pretty low.' I agree.
He changes now. Anger flashes across his face, 'Do you know how long it takes to make thirty dollars begging? Do you?'
I shake my head.
He goes on, shouting, 'I'll kill them if I find out who did it! If I catch em, I'll kill em!'
'Bloody right.' I say, agreeing.
He's getting quite excited now, 'I'll cut em up, I'll quarter them!' He makes an unholy cross motion, as if cutting a person into four bits. He sounds quite serious.
'Look,' I say, 'I'd give you something if I could afford it, but I'm an immigrant, and I don't have a job, and no money.'
We stop and he stares at me. My excuse sounds lame. He didn't even ask for it, but I felt compelled to try and explain why I'm not giving him any money.
'Aye.' he says.
I'm saved by a rich looking passer-by. 'Any change sir?' He says, changing direction, and walking with his new mark.
'Good luck.' I say.
'What?' he turns back, 'Oh, yeah, thanks.' And runs back to the man who is shaking his head.