Saturday, May 9, 2015

Je Suis Perdu

Oh dear, back to writing again. Not sure what compels me other than boredom... and .... it's odd trying to do it in a library with a person 12 inches to your right on another computer. Oh well.

With time comes change. A little bit too much change in a small amount of time for myself. I have, in the past 6 years:

 - married a beautiful French woman,
- separated from said French woman,
- acquired a heroin addiction in a desperate attempt to 'cure' my depression & anxiety,
- acquired a methadone addiction to beat said addiction (ironic, as heroin was made to cure opium addiction)
- been to prison (I was just waiting on a court date but it was still two weeks in a prison)
- moved into a hostel with other lost souls,
- left the hostel an even lost-er soul,
- taken up residence in a park where I sleep in the bushes with (sometimes) a Buddhist, and lately, a perhaps semi-crazed Swedish woman,
- worked randomly in a café as a kitchen porter,
- acquired a fondness for the habit of shoplifting which sees me lifting entire cases of wine from grocery stores not to mention Cadbury choc chip cookies................

my backyard... and front yard, and living room

That sounds well and good; perhaps exciting in retrospect, but it's more or less exhausting if you're living it. These things are now all me and I'm not sure I want to be them.

I suppose it's good to write things down, because reading my own thoughts, well, now I just feel like a spoiled child. Knowing full well that if this were 10 years ago I would read this in envy... I mean, I was sitting in a darkened bedroom by myself trading punk MP3 files, living most of my life on the internet, and now I'm actually living life but complaining about it. Shows how rotten the human soul is. We are rarely happy. Soft pink turds smoldering in the sun and complaining about the tan we're getting.

There's someone screaming outside of the library right this second --  a woman -- and my first reaction is: should I go investigate it for pure entertainment purposes, or, is it just more of the same and not worth hiking the 12 meters to the door? That's an actual thought in my head! Not "Hey! that woman sounds mentally ill, perhaps I should call someone." Just: "Is that worth walking to check it out? Probably not. I can get my own mentally ill person delivered to yell at me if I stand around long enough." That is what London does to you. Or does it? Am I just a prick?

In short, I haven't the slightest clue who the fuck I am any more, and I'm not sure I care. I think... well, I don't know... maybe I'll try to shoot over to France or Belgium, because now the Tories are in full power and all I see on the horizon is more Thatcher-esque purging of the poor. And I am poor. If we're not going to fight back, there is no other choice but to abandon the place and it isn't really even my place unless you want to count some ancient blood lines as evidence of my citizenship. Unfortunately, marking "Anglo-Saxon" on a doctor's application form doesn't make you eligible for all the benefits of that society -- and perhaps I should be grateful for that. I am American, not British. Today is the first day that's made me proud.

To Europe, then? But that's like swimming into the deep end, or out much farther than you should to catch that wave... where there are no helping hands... or even a bit of sand to land your feet in should you run into danger. I don't know what the hell is out there and it's scary! Admittedly. But I left the U.S., which cares not for human beings, and I guess now I'm leaving the U.K. which has, some how, become a cheap imitation of the brutal place my own homeland now is. They've copied it and made it worse, which is terrifying. So... so?

To Europe then? First of all, to get a job. To get a ticket. To pack a smaller backpack. To stop forming relationships with crazy women.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

As Long As You Brush Me

Every day, I wake up to gently place Justin Bieber in my mouth. I move him back and forth vigorously until a fine white lather encompasses my teeth and then I spit it all out, take a deep breath and think about what life has done with me. 

I mean, if I could afford the 6 pound toothbrushes at Superdrug I wouldn't have to buy the children's Bieber brush from 99P. For some reason soft toothbrushes can't be found except in pharmacies over here, like some sort of specialty item. People care about their teeth, man. The UK needs to take note. So anyway, I want a special toothbrush and so you could take it as a symbol, if you like, of me wanting a job. The day I get Bieber out of my mouth, the day I pull him from my lips and slam him upon the counter top and say "NO MORE!" is the day I've got things going the way I want them.

I could try to wax philosophical over my trials and tribulations, joys and victories over the past few weeks and months but instead I'd rather just make fun of duck boats catching on fire and stuff like that:

So here's a duck boat on fire :

When Marine and I take our walks along the Thames, we often point out the indigenous, amphibious landing craft that is the Duck Boat to each other with great smiles upon our faces. It is a sort of bird watching, you could say, and we just love spotting the world war 2 era duck boat and its wonderful yellow plumage.

The most interesting thing about the duck boat is that all of its passengers look either completely terrified or confused. In fact, the only time I think I've ever seen a duck boat full of people that looked reasonably happy was when they had not yet entered the water and were instead being driven safely across London Bridge. Even the post-bathing duck boats are full of what I would call more or less "victims" who look as if they've been pulled from a faulty rollercoaster. I've never been on one but I'm almost positive that there's a moment as the duck boat enters the water where the engine starts to chug and choke on sea water, emitting various diesel fumes, and the passengers exchange nervous glances suggesting something like "Did we bring enough ammunition" or "This is still operational, right?"

The answer is no; no it isn't, as the engine on the duck boat above appears to have received a mortar blast from the past. According to the Guardian, everyone on board had to bail, including a pregnant woman who suffered "some smoke inhalation". Oh dear. The UK seems to take on US traits by the day, let's hope lawsuits are not one of them or we won't have any more terrified duck boatees to point at on future romantic walks.

Funny thing, walks. London's huge but most of my walking is kept local. I keep trying to tell myself that all I have to do is get on a bus and I'll be in a whole new crazy area to check out, but some times the idea just feels so daunting. It's all those days spent back in America, I think. Spending all that time in towns where a car was necessary and people treated you like you were abnormal if you didn't want to drive. Now I'm in the perfect place but have the old world mentality. Only one way to fix that: head out on a god damn duck boat and post some incredibly fabricated CV's! And then bailing before we get anywhere near the Thames.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Britain needs better weather

I meet Marine every night after work, and most days at lunch. I walk her home or bring her food. I figure it's the least I can do considering I still don't have a real job. Today, I didn't realize that she had to pull the stay-after shift or whatever name they give for "You pulled the short stick, bitch" -- meaning she had to stay behind to answer phones and so I idled around outside her place of work reading some library book I'd picked up. I figured out what was going on after calling her and so I got all pissy and left for home. You can walk your own way home! Well, that's what I thought. Then...

On my way home I stopped in front of McDonalds to cross the street, 4 lanes of traffic total, to see a young woman attacked across the road from me. Like all fights, the first 3 seconds were entertaining and a sort of contact-adrenaline burst set in just watching from afar. 

10 seconds into the fight I realized the girl was being swallowed up in a gang of others and was beginning to get beaten down with various hair pulling and kicks to the head and body. I couldn't see anyone moving anywhere and a voice inside my head just kept saying "Surely someone is going to stop this. Stop this! I can't, there are cars coming. Someone will stop this? Surely." No one did however, so as soon as the vehicles stopped to watch I began to move across the road, juggling my library books in my hands along with my beer, my drink of choice on a hot summer's-- and--errr, -- well, winter's day. By the time I got to the other side and had played Frogger the girl was bleeding and was surrounded by a group of other people who were still doing nothing except watching, while the girls who did it all scampered away. The apparent instigator was pulled away by her friends, screaming her lungs out while they, in turn, screamed at her to run.

All I could imagine was my stupid pasty white ass in that mix of weaves and long nails, getting cut to shreds, and it was definitely what I was going to do if I could get across the street. I don't know who stopped the fight but I hope an adult stepped in because what I did see was just pathetic. No one doing anything. The girl on the ground had friends ready to help her away, but not to help her during the fight. Those are what I like to call "shitty friends". I believe I've heard of fairweather friends, etc -- these were just shitty friends though. And when she stops spitting blood she needs to get some new ones. I didn't think she would want to hear about it then so I headed home.

Sirens began to ring and I walked away shaking my head. How stupid, glad it's over. Thank baby jesus. They headed past me, though -- so I assumed it was just another ride to the hospital, something unrelated but not... What's this though? No, they stop meters down the road from me. More flashing lights. There I see a bicyclist, a woman, on the ground with emergency personnel scattered about along with a car windshield. Someone keeping the woman's neck in place, her helmet still on and her bike thrown to the side of the road. I didn't want to look, I felt like it was rude. Especially since she was still comatose. I just kept walking but made sure to make a face like "Ouch, that must smart. That's too bad!" just so people around me might know that I wasn't a bastard.

I wondered what was going on with the world until two men in front of me started to push each other around a bit. One of the men picked up a bag of trash and threw it at the other who blocked it and then began to curse at the other man who quickly scampered away to the laughter of many other Jamaican men standing nearby, watching. Probably for the best that Trash Thrower scampered, as Trash Receiver appeared to be pulling out a blade attached to his car keys (I still don't see how this can be safe if you want to unlock your car AND keep your testicles, but each to their own sliced bollocks as they say). 

This is all happening next to police officers who are directing traffic because of the bicycle accident. I figure nothing else can happen because they're there but I turn the corner and hear a big "OOoooh!" as if a blow has been struck. I head back -- I mean, shit, at this point why not? --  in time to see Trash Receiver being pulled away before things can escalate and the police are forced to get involved. I don't want to be no snitch so I scamper off, yo!!!

Why today? The funny thing is, living in the center of Brixton, I KNOW WHY today. It's because it's beautiful outside! That's it, that's why! And it's the first day in a long time. Any time Spring starts to show its face, I've realized, I'm destined to hear sirens and kids fighting, if not even adults. This all continues until they get tired of it or the sun drains them and they chill out. People simply get excited, is all I can figure, and they resort to childish stupidity. That's literally it. You don't need a psychologist or sociologist to figure it out, people get sweaty and they are not used to it.

Britain needs better god damn weather and it always has, and this is why the Nazis could never conquer the isles. That's right, I made that leap. Post done.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


I've done a bad job at keeping up to date. I have tried to remedy this a bit by buying matching journals for Marine and myself last month. She has done a better job than I.

When I first saw the notebooks at Poundland, the two in nice hardcovers and shrink wrapped together, the idea struck me. Two note books? Why, there's two of us! Ah-hee-hee!
"We are going to keep a journal of every day!" I told her excitedly, on returning home. "Even if it's just the weather. It's good for you... it'll be interesting later!"
"Later, when?" she asked.
"Later! For ourselves... or our grandchildren." I said all of this with confidence but had only read the idea sometime before and decided it sounded nice. If I could get Marine to do it then that meant we would both be pulled into it and she would make me do it. That's how things work when you're married.

She reluctantly agreed after some prodding and eventually she was doing better than me. Her whole book is almost full now, albeit with long, large, curling loopty-loops of cursive -- but it is full.

Myself? Not so much. I am trying though, because I think there is some sort of value in it. To look back and see your days are boring. To look back and find them interesting. To look back. Just that -- because I often find myself so at-odds with the person I once was, cursing myself and asking myself why, why I had done this or that.. something I couldn't imagine myself doing now. Why did I do what I did? I remember the events, but not necessarily the thinking. This could be a way to figure out why I hold so much resentment towards myself, not to mention others. Memories fade, but fortunately ink does it a lot slower. So I'm trying.

Our friends Jarrod and Tiffany visited in March. We were happy -- elated -- to have them in the area for the week, but I wasn't sure what we might get up to. Things are limited when you're broke and it's hard dealing with friends in that state. They are in vacation mode while you remain in broke-ass ghetto mode.

I started giving English lessons and for a good month or two I had a group of 3 Catalonians requesting classes nearly every day until they got jobs or otherwise, and with them went any money I was bringing into our household. Marine's always there and always on duty thank sweet Jesus. And fortunately, our friends have kind hearts as always, and they treated us to an Indian dinner among many other treats, so we could all enjoy ourselves. Gifts of the white trash variety were even brought (as per my request)  -- Velveeta cheese and Beef Jerky. Friends, food, beer? I was in heaven.

I've been moving all of my life, so you would think I'm used to the idea of saying goodbye and moving on... Even I think about it. Why I haven't become immune to saying those words to those I care about and love, why "goodbye" remains such a painful word.

The answer is simply because it doesn't really get easier, ever. Over time the feelings dull and perhaps you get used to the idea of the pain, but things never get better. They just are what they are. You try to find new friends but often ask yourself what the point is in the end, as you will undoubtedly be saying those words again to them as well. It was the same in my youth and now it is the same in my adult life.

I, of course, have the chance to change things now. I could try to live wherever I would like to. There are always drawbacks -- my life is here now, with my wife, where she is making her career. I have few friends. That is my fault. I have left a trail of them across the United States and into Europe and across to the UK. I have friends who love me and who will help me but no one to come running if needed. No shoulder to cry on. Sometimes I wonder if I would have had that if I stayed in one place. I know at heart I'm a nomad, but what have I missed because of it?

I still don't know. I have my wife, my ultimate best friend, the person to whom I am attached forever. Our bond is stronger because of my lack of friends,  I imagine.When Jarrod and Tiff left, after halving a box of wine with Tiff, of course I was in tears of sorts. Perhaps not huge snot-ball tears, but they were there. I wasn't sure why, though. I've dealt with this shit before! I had to ask myself again, Shouldn't it get easier over time? Why the hell is this hitting me now? It came out of nowhere, those cunting tears.

Seeing how life could be with friends around, hanging out, joking, spilling your guts over tough situations and getting good feedback, the type of stuff you need to keep yourself together -- all the things I miss and would love to have... a normal life... was all realized in one week seeing them again and then suddenly it was gone.

I don't regret travel. I just wish I could bring everyone with me. That'll never happen, and at least we have the internet, but it's not the same. And at the age of 29 finding new friends, the type you can trust to the end, feels almost impossible.

I don't think I will move back to the US despite having family there. I don't get along with half of them and I never got along with most of my countrymen in the south, at least. Where I belong is in limbo. It was how I was created and where I will remain. I just wish it were a lot easier.

The weather today is 36F, large snow flakes falling upon our faces when we walk here in Brixton. I woke up to the sound of my phone ringing for the second day in a row, at 8 am. Unknown number. I answered once only to find a female voice with a London accent asking Hello and if I was there. I hung up. My landlord wants back rent, I'm sure. Or maybe it's a job offer and I'm just too much of a coward to answer. My day is spent at the library reading, searching for jobs. I am hungry but don't want to eat. I'm tired but don't want to sleep. I'm thirsty, so I'm going to go have a beer.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Knives of Brixton

I live a stones throw away from Moorlands Estate and Southwyck House, AKA the "Barrier Block" or "The Prison" (as it is ugly as sin and resembles a penitentiary), so I was a little shocked to hear some poor 17 year old kid got stabbed there the other night. That's just one of them though: there have apparently been 7 other stabbings in the area in the last 10 days. Not to mention a rape.

I read a statistic recently that said this borough has the highest domestic violence numbers in the country, along with one of the highest poverty rates. I didn't really know any of that when I moved here, obviously. I knew it could be rough, but not "8 stabbings and a rape" rough. That's a whole new means of measurement to me.

I remember a scared Polish woman that stopped in where I worked just for a place to sit down and feel safe while she waited for her train. She said she'd been harassed several times just walking down the road to get to the station. She couldn't get back on a train and out of the area fast enough. I took it as a typical response to someone first visiting the area and being paranoid (and wearing weird tights up to her cooch that no doubt brought attention), but she explained to me how she was studying to be a lawyer and was in the courts all day sitting in on trials, and then rattled off some statistics. Something like how 1 in 5 people here were below the poverty line and living on council estates (ghetto housing), etc. I noted that I lived in the area and I didn't think it was all that bad, even if people were poor. She tried to awkwardly back pedal: "Well, of course I don't mean you!" but I just laughed it off. The area really just doesn't seem that bad. Then you look at the statistics and wonder. Maybe I've just been missing it all?

A couple of weeks ago before I lost my job at that very crapshack (AHEM - don't go to the café at Loughborough Station, it's shite - AHEM), there was another stabbing just down the road from me, near the old house we used to live in. My friend/ex-flatmate was visiting me and he ran around the corner to get a cigarette from one of the local night shops as I closed the café. He had to sort of side step a few teens that suddenly took off chasing after another guy.

Apparently they hit the victim right as he ran through a doorway. He survived, but his bloody jacket was left lying on the floor of the place for all to see. It was across from the "The Hole" that we both used to live in, near our favorite chicken restaurant and at the door of the convenience store we used to frequent nightly... Not something we expected to see, but some how not really surprising at the same time. It's not the nicest looking area, but it was our ugly little area for a little while and we'd never seen that happen. We ended up getting a ride in a police car, which I did not like, and my friend had to give a statement. It made the night interesting. Well, for me, anyway. He's Mexican, so I'm sure he's used to stabbings and police. I've heard his stories.

A couple of months prior to that little event, I ran outside of the café because I heard broken glass and screaming. I ran over to the Chinese restaurant next to us and saw the door had been smashed in and a couple teenagers were running around inside. I flagged down a police van (funny how many of those are around), thinking they were robbing the place and maybe hurting the Chinese woman who was screaming her head off, but in the end it was just another fight. One of them apparently had a knife. Days later on a way to give a class, Marine saw a guy being chased and yelling for help. I kind of wonder if that was just the beginning to all of this.

The thing about it is that I don't feel weird walking out alone at 2AM into Brixton or anything. Most of these rapes and stabbings are gang related, most of the gang members being teens. People like me don't really exist in their world. We're just the people who look on, confused. Still, there's a reason most people don't go walking alone in large cities in the middle of the night -- it's because there are weirdos out there. When you go out into a now silent city that was bustling earlier in the day, you are playing Weirdo Lottery. The witching hour and all that.

The other night I wanted to run out and buy something but it was too late. The local shop with the asian owner who talks like a rastafari was closed, much to my chagrin, so I had walk a little further than I wanted to. On my way back I encountered a man in a life or death fight with a road barrier. He was using karate, so I don't know who won, but I made sure to cross the street before I let him use it on me. I'd made the same walk several times before in the dead of night, the streets eerily empty, and was fine. That night though, if I didn't divert to the other side of the road I may have been viciously beaten by karate construction crack man. You just don't know.

There are a lot of good things about walking around the Brixton streets, though. You never know what you might see, or hear, and some times that's a good thing. Marine and I were introduced to the tunes of Dennis Brown by walking past one of those incredibly loud music shops that sell pirated CDs. That will probably be one of my lasting memories of living here... walking home from the market with my wife through the smell of incense and deciding to buy whatever great album was being played. It was a good decision:

And there's the Brixton Village. There's The Cabana (giant steak & rice & beans mmmm), Ms. Cupcake (giant cupcake mmm), London Fast Food (best fried chicken in London mmm) and of course all the other things that aren't edible. Music shops, market stalls, couple nice parks, a diverse mix of interesting and crazy people. It's just the ones with the knives that give it a bad name. Hopefully the kids doing this shit will live to grow up and realize an entire world exists aside from this place and the problems it does have, like poverty. Because you can't enjoy cupcakes or steaks or chicken if you're poor as fuck and have nothing else to do. I can understand that. Unfortunately, the response seems to be "send in more police" which is like par for the course when any trouble happens over here. Maybe the local councils or government could focus on why these guys feel like they need to attack each other and get to the root of it or something. But what do I know

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Caffè latte Loco

During one of my first weeks of work at the coffee shop, I had my first, and last big tip. I was pretty nervous working a new job since I hadn't really worked in a public setting in a long time and it probably showed. Maybe I looked a little unhappy.

I was sitting on a leather bench that ran the length of the wall having a break. A large and rather talkative black woman with giant locks of hair sat across the room from me drinking a coffee I had made her.

"Come here, darlin'!" she said.

That's not a common request. Usually people just want to know where the sugar is, or they want a napkin.

"Sorry?" I said.

She repeated herself, and so with my fellow employees watching I sheepishly stood up and walked over to her, unsure of what to expect. She started to reach in between her enormous breasts as if she was going to pull one out as a gift, and I stood ready to accept, as it would be impolite to refuse. Rather than a giant nipple popping out to greet me, however, came a 5 pound note that had just moments before been neatly tucked into her cleavage. She handed it to me and said, "I want you to have this. You deserve it."

"Oh no, that's too much!" I said, looking confused.

"Take it, baby."

So I took it.

Every once and a while after that I'd get a one pound tip and I'd be thankful, but never again did I receive a 5 pound cleavage bill as a form of thank you. Not even a regular 5 pound note. I don't think I ever will.

Interacting with people in such a busy place meant there was always something interesting that could happen at any given moment. Most of the time, they weren't good things, though. For example, on a different day I was, again, sitting down taking a break (this does not reflect upon my work ethic) when a skinny Sarah Connor-lookin' woman ran past me towards the bathrooms. It took me a second to realize that she had 3 butcher's knives in her hands that had passed inches in front of my face. I looked up at one of the owners as if to ask, did you just see that? I stood up, thinking maybe she was going to hurt herself and we should do something, but then she stuck her head out of the bathroom and began screaming about how her boyfriend was just shot and how they were going to kill her too, "But don't call the police!" She popped her head back in. This went on for some time. I remember nervously pacing the floor when a woman approached me and kindly asked if she could use the bathroom. I kindly told her that a woman had just run into the bathroom with a set of very sharp knives and that maybe now would not be the best time. "I think I'll go somewhere else then," she replied.

My landlord/boss decided that he'd let her be, because "If you do something for one of them [lunatic or drug addict], they will do anything for you!" he laughed. Which sounded psychopathically messed up: he literally meant it as in, if you help out a desperate person who can use them later. He was the type of two faced, narcissistic person that would do anything to have anyone like him for that very reason, so it wasn't surprising. Me, I went and found a cop car, but by then she'd run off.

Crazy is crazy, but crazy with a knife or three changes things. Only weeks before, a woman in London had randomly ran into a shop, grabbed a knife and stabbed two random people, so I think I had reason to be concerned.

Then there were the crackheads who demanded chicken sandwiches and tea "Not too hot! I'm a crackhead, you know!" as if I was supposed to know what that meant in terms of hot tea. All free, of course. I gave it to them, until the day one of them kissed me for a pizza. Kind of threw me off the whole charity thing.

And finally you get your 7 foot tall giants showing buttcrack who politely order their lattes, sit down, and begin talking to themselves, making you and the rest of the staff (my poor wife) incredibly uncomfortable ("American? Yeah well fuck off back to where you came from. That panini looks good. Yeah, it does. I do like New York, though."). Between him and the guy that came in and demanded 5 pounds, sat down and started talking into his mobile phone as loudly as possible to no one, there could have been an actual conversation going. Organize your days, guys.

Worse than any of that though, was the woman who requested a "Babycino". I don't know who invented that word, but it instantly made me understand some of the random knifings going on in the world.

So let's all give thanks that I do not have to put up with requests for that or anything else any more. So long, Loughborough Junction. Stay classy.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I Am a Sucker

I stayed late at work tonight, just taking my time cleaning and using the internet. You get different people in the area at different times of the day, and at that time of night one of the local whatever-heads happened to be outside aggressively begging. What I mean by aggressive is yelling "Oi!" and quickly marching up to the person with a "PUH-LEASE give me 20p, PLEASE?!"

When you reject her, she sometimes screams a frustrated "Fuck!"

A person like me could find that endearing, because I believe when she shouts "fuck" that it is sincere and she is desperate for whatever it is that she needs -- but I have rent to pay, I make 4 pounds an hour, and have a hole in my pants and problems of my own and I know the next time I see her she'll recognize me and swarm me like I owe her something like all of the others have done, so I'm sorry. Leave me alone. I have anxiety issues and being yelled at with fucks and shits just makes them worse, lady.

It's a pathetic sight and with her unkempt hair you peg her immediately as being down and out, but when she starts charging at you begging for money you sort of go into evade-mode and don't give her anything at all, even if you might have been feeling generous. The bravado involved is sort of shocking. Here's this 90 pound girl and she doesn't look scared or humiliated, just... frustrated and intent.

I heard her shouts of "Oi!" and watched her through our glass doors thinking Why can't you go away? I want to go to the grocery store after this and I know you're going to harass me on my way and make me feel uncomfortable. Learn to beg better and do it somewhere else. Put on the lame show about how you need 10p for rice and lie if you have to, but just leave me alone. Sincerity doesn't work in this world.

I made a dash outside to gather the chairs and signs, hoping she wouldn't see me, lest my anger or even pity get the better of me. She didn't bother me though, just kept begging the passer-bys.

Two lost, clean looking women came out of the station. The dirty girl charged.

"WHERE DO YOU NEED TO GO?", she demanded. "THE CLOSEST STATION IS THAT WAY!" Only to follow it up with more begging. Then a few more people: Do you have a cigarette? What about 20p then? She failed and failed, and failed then finally some Brixtonite told her to "Fuck off" and she said "No, fuck you."

Everything was finally done in the shop and I packed up and left and headed to the store. I lucked out, she was no where in sight. Good. I want to get my beers and go home as usual and sit in the dark and watch TV and forget all of this. I didn't see her until I got to the entrance of the shop.

When I looked inside I saw five of the guys who run the place struggling with her. There are usually around 10 Pakistani men inside, either standing at the door as security, working the register, or continually restocking. One of them must have seen her try to steal something. As I turned to walk through the doorway, they pulled her inside and swarmed on her. One managed to slam her to the ground on her chest and lay on her back holding her arm behind her like a policeman. She must have coughed up what they wanted because after her repeated shouts of "LET ME GO BRUV!" they finally pushed her out the door. People in line just sort of watched the mayhem. The guys went back to their registers or their other work, business as usual. I just went inside and bought my beer.

A weird sort of conflict went through my head as they wrestled with this girl and then violently threw her down -- a part of it was "You are getting what you deserve" and the other was "Just let her go, why did you have to do that?"

On the way back towards my place I passed by my work and saw I had forgotten to throw away a trash bag. So I grabbed it and went down one of the nearby alleyways to put it in a can. There was the girl again, but this time huddled in the dark against a wall with her knees up to her chest. She was spitting on the ground and looked like she might be crying, but she didn't say a word when I walked by. All I could think of was how she might not deserve whatever she wanted the money for, but she also didn't deserve where she was right now. So on the way back I reached into my pocket to give her the only change I could find. Before I could give it to her she managed to ask "Please, do you have 20p?" But this time it wasn't loud or confident or aggressive, just desperate and nothing else.

"Here's 50," I said, and went on my way.
"THANK YOU!" she said. "Oh, THAAAANK YOUUUU!" she shouted around the corner.

I guess she won in the end.