Anyhow, an hour or two spent in the café, seated next to the decaying man.
My crude and quick rendering of said man - obviously a caricature after the event and bares little actual resemblance, other than a certain degree of sloppiness and crudity of form:
When I initially sat down I was aware of this character shuffling around behind me, he was pressed into his chair and occasionally stooped forward; rummaging around on the table, re-arranging cigarette papers and a pair of wrap around black shades and twists of what looked like tissue paper - he appeared to have compulsive urges and clearly his nervous system was askew.
I wanted to talk to him, but part of me was repulsed at this dishevelled and faintly pungent man. I managed through peripheral vision to analyse his flesh - it was yellowish in hue and deeply scarred and cracked and pitted with small black heads and grime. He had sunken dark eyes, like raisins pressed into dough and his hair was dark grey, matted and greasy looking. He had a tatty old cap pressed on to his head and I didn't really focus on his general apparel, as I was keenly fixed on his features. It was hard to pin down the age of this vagrant fellow, but I would place him late fifties or even early sixties and the city and his decadence had seared its mark upon his flesh; clearly he had sponged alcohol deep within his viscera, which invariably disfigures the flesh and wrecks the nervous system through abuse.
Every ten minutes or so he would rise from the seat and shuffle off to the side door; taking a fresh roll-up with him to smoke. As he shuffled away (and I do mean shuffled) his head rolled to the side and he starred through the other people in the store, paying particular attention to an Asian couple seated opposite, who starred back with reserved horror.
He performed this ritual continually and around his seat lay tobacco shreds, and twists of paper littered the table top. The pungent odour as noted earlier consisted mainly of that acrid bitter stench that accompanies an habitual smoker - quite vile. Although upon inspection there was a repugnant potpourri that pulled at my stomach ever so slightly and conjured visions of soiled under-pants.
Anyway, a little time past by and he asked to borrow my ink pen. Asked, as in, slurred and spluttered out (almost) indecipherable sounds that were tenuously strung together, but coherent enough for the attentive ear to decipher. So I passed him my pen and watched him scrawl god only knows what on a fragment of paper plucked from an ancient leather wallet.
He passed it back - "cheers mate," said he.
We had a disjointed conversation for fifteen minutes or so, that consisted of... well, I'm not quite sure, as I could only work out perhaps 40% of the sounds my fellow human was projecting at me, through streams of drool and flecks of spittle. But I dutifully played it cool and felt as though I were doing this specimen of broken down humanity a favour (yes, that repulsive ego of mine reared its ugliness) and inside I looked for the exit - a verbal opportunity to leave, to move on, to go - lest I be consumed by this decay before me and sink into oblivion.
So, I contrived an excuse to leave and stood to go, but felt I should reach out and into this horror with my hand and shake the paw, replete with soiled claws, and prove my worth somehow. After all, I recall, Jesus hung out with the wretched and the poor... so I followed suit, and reached in and gripped this pulsing gristle and excrement.
But dear reader, please bare with me, as there is a heart that beats in this chest of mine and compassion that cuts me to the core, yet at times it is buried deep within a fear that grips me, that I should become the other, become my brother - this broken down man, this isolated fool, this neurotic bag of nothing, this fart, this... this was somebodies baby, this is a life lost, this was potential for something glorious and who am I not to be moved in genuine sympathy, who the fuck am I?
Even so, I popped into the toilet on the way out of the store and washed my hands clean, as I felt physically ill, yet when I did so, the life drained out of my heart.