I told Homeless Aaron I’d give him a cigarette if I had any papers, and that I’d run out myself. He pulled two packs of Bull Brand from his pocket and gave me the rest of his. I told him I couldn’t accept it, so he forced them into my pocket. I gave him some tobacco (he didn’t like filter) and told him I still felt bad about it. He said it was OK because he could tell I was a genuine guy, that he’d seen me before, doing the same gesture for all the homeless guys all over town. I asked about the cuts on his face, he told me the junkie who sleeps outside Tesco beat him up for thirty pence. He said he was starving though, so I told him I’d bring food next time, that I’d probably see him after work the next day. He shook my hand, which morphed into a brief hug. He kissed my cheek and told me it was nice to know there were still good people about. I told him again that I’d bring food next time, and left. He told me to have a good night and get home safe.
I saw Homeless Pete a few seconds later. I’d seen him a few hours beforehand, given him a cigarette. This time, I told him that he was in luck, and that I’d run out of papers, but that Aaron had given me some. I began to roll him a cigarette, but he put his hand on my arm and stopped me. He reached into a pack and gave me two of his own cigarettes. I said I couldn’t take it from him. He insisted though, told me he saw me three/four times a week, and that I always gave him cigarettes, and that I was stoned once and gave him two slices of pizza. He said he hated having to ask for money, so he didn’t. He was right, he always just told people to have a nice night as they passed him. I’d seen them, most people ignored him. It didn’t seem fair. I shook his hand, told him I’d see him the next day, and that when my loan came through, I’d buy him a whole pack to himself. He told me to have a good night and get home safe.
I walked home to the sound of flat-battery-iPod silence and the Saturday night customers of Huddersfield. Some were in McDonald’s, some were kissing, or some throwing up on the pavement. I tried to question what had just happened with Aaron and Pete, why, and what it meant – if it meant anything at all. I couldn’t help but think that what they’d said about me was wrong.
I got home, lit a spliff, and fell asleep watching an episode of Red Dwarf I’d pirated.
That night I dreamt of beating my friends up.