Saturday, 12 December 2015

Jamie the Tramp.

I met a tramp the other day, on the train. He called himself that. He sat down next to me and said "I'm a tramp." He smelt and looked like one, he was carrying a plastic bag full of belongings. I believed him.

He had glazed over eyes, bright blue, and one of them had a red cut through the middle. He had a fresh cut on the side of his face too. And scars underneath that. When he spoke it was thick with a Glaswegian accent and the slurring effects of alcohol so the odds were against us to understand everything he was saying. 

He immediately began telling me about his terrible life. His fiancĂ©e had died, he had been in the army, his parents had died. I think I managed to pick up a vaguely racist story about some "black boys" who had stamped on his stereo on the bus. It took a while to try and decipher that one, I'm still not sure I understand. 

On some occasions he'd actually cry. On others he'd pretend to punch an invisible man in front of him. On another occasion he actually rapped. 

He asked me for £20. My heart dropped. I only had £20 to go up to Leeds for the day with, to get food and bus tickets and such like. At first the £20 would be going towards funds to get a train to Glasgow. In the midst of explaining that to me he pointed to a ditch in a field and said "that's where I should be." I timidly said "no."

A few minutes later the £20 was going to go towards a cheap stereo from Sainsbury's. He then handed me a CD that he apparently made with "his boys" and he was DJing. At this point I was confused, and I still hadn't said I would give him the money. I had told him I didn't have any cash on me. He had simply replied that we could go to a cash machine when we got off the train. I had somewhere to be when we got off the train. 

I didn't give him the money in the end. I didn't get the chance to. He moved away eventually, saying good bye to me across the other passengers. At Doncaster we were delayed for a few minutes. As we left the station the driver explained that someone had been removed by the police. Other passengers in the carriage laughed as they realised who it had been. I noticed he had left his hat on the seat next to me. He wouldn't have it wherever he went that night. 

The whole time I spoke to Jamie I felt on edge. My body language probably told him that: he was on the outside seat and I was facing quite deliberately towards the window when I could. When he took my hand I probably shook it feebly. I didn't want to be pathetic and tell him to go away. Part of him was only making conversation. But I didn't enjoy the decision making over whether I would give him money. 

I don't know whether I would have paid him the £20 in the end. Or whether I should have. My values should dictate that he needed it more than I did. But he made me feel uncomfortable, and I was nervous about going up to Leeds alone for the first time, and I wasn't even sure he was always telling the truth. My response to him has probably been terribly middle class and overthought. It might mean I'm a bad person. I'm not sure. I just keep worrying that he might be cold without his hat.