/ Soft Matter

On one hand, years ago, before I used a cane, I was walking down Kingsway towards the river. There was scaffolding up on Africa House, which meant a part of the pavement was covered and in shadow. I, what happened was — years ago, when I wasn’t using a cane — I was walking fast with all the others just out of the office — there were lots of us — and I walked under this scaffolding, in the shadow, and, wanting to get ahead of the crowd, I saw a gap amongst all the people and went for it, put one heavy Chelsea boot down where I thought there was pavement and felt beneath its heal not pavement but the soft matter of somebody. The person yelped — a man? — and cried out — hey! — and — ow! — and I half-turned, but didn’t stop, said — sorry! — and felt my cheeks burn and thought — fuck! — and — did anyone else see? — and — I fucking trod on a homeless person, the worst thing — and — how contemptuous, how callous, how Victorian — and — did I break his ankle? — and — he doesn’t know I didn’t see him, he thinks I did it on purpose — and — he shouldn’t be sitting on the pavement in everyone’s way — and — terrible thought! terrible thought!

On the other hand, yesterday, I was walking along Oxford Street, looking out for HSBC, cane tapped out in front, left right, when a voice came through to me — opp! down here! — and I looked and saw a guy in a hat, sleeping bag pulled up under him, a caterpillar bracing for contact. But I stopped in time, even had the presence of mind to apologise, ask if he was OK.

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