There's a tramp who skulks outside York station. He looks ancient but could be anything from mid 40s to mid 60s. He's filthy and wizened and looks broken and bowed. His face is like a wrinkled bird/man hybrid's face, with deep, deep crevixes engrained with years worth of accumulated dirt. He doesn't seem to speak to anyone and seems lost in his own head. Every time I get a train from York, I see him. Sometimes he's sitting cross legged, wrapped in his green army-style coat. He always leans over like he's praying to Allah. When you get closer you realise he's just rocking. His attention seems to be solely focused on tobacco, rolling his tobacco or grubbing around among the discarded fag ends so he can deconstruct them and use their dirty innards to create a new cigarette. He walks with a jerky limp and a sideways shuffle and never, ever meets anyone's eye.
I always want to speak to him. I want to know how he ended up here. What chain of events brought him here. To this spot outside York Station. And does he take in any of the reactions he conjures up in people? Does he see the disgust, contempt, pity or indifference? Does he notice? Does he care?
Was it his fault or did someone break his spirit. And how is it that some people have the strength to turn their slings and arrows into positivity and light, and others end up on their knees in the gutter looking for cigarette ends?
I want to help him but I don't know how. And who says he needs my help anyway? Maybe it's my smug middle-class guilt talking. Maybe I'm assuming an awful lot. Maybe he's completely happy with his life and it's none of my business.
I gave him the rest of my cigarettes anyway. He didn't seem very pleased but I like to think he will be able to enjoy them and it might give him a bit of time away from having to look in the gutter.