I took myself off to the job centre today for the first time in almost 2 decades. Debating whether or not to take my umbrella – I decided to – just in case. My intuition was spot on and the rain fell heavily resembling marching soldiers on the pavement and fast flowing rivers along the road. I sought shelter the opposite side of a tree to another person sheltering there. Car driver’s beeped their horns at oncoming traffic and struggled to see through the windows.
When I almost reached the building a stench of vomit filled the air. I imagined a drunk or some low life spewing up outside and then I spotted the food waste collection truck. On this humid day it was one of the most offensive things I have ever smelled. My trousers were soaked through from the rain and my newly cut hair shortened as it frizzed up holding water. I entered the building.
Inside a handful of people were sitting in chairs back to back in the middle of the room. The circumference was filled edge to edge of desks with computers. There was not a soul to a desk. Immediately in front of me two young women with lanyards sat chatting and a security guard stood at the side. They seemed shocked when I approached them to talk. I’d inquired if they had any information, leaflets etc., on being self-employed. They looked aghast when I told them I wasn’t on benefits but was seeking more information on working for myself. One of them had a quick rummage through a concertina file on a shelf behind her back the other ran to side of the room to find a colleague to speak to. Both were fruitless with their searches but advised me to look for jobs on line or to sign on to unemployment benefit.
As I left the building the stench of warm vomit permeated the air once more as the food waste truck stood outside the train station chewing up its contents.
I hadn’t been walking 5 minutes when something caught my eye across the road. A large man was lying on his side on the pavement at the bus stop, his entire face coloured red with blood. People were bending down to help him as a party of school children were fixated on him from my side of the road. I tried to block their view as they passed me by. I went over to the bus stop and asked a woman on her phone if anyone had called for an ambulance. She said she was doing that right now. The man was flat on his back and I couldn’t help but feel he should be in the recovery position in case of choking but the group seemed to have matters under control. I saw flashing lights in the distance and helped to flag down the paramedics. It seems that he had just fallen over in the street but my initial reaction was that he’d either been in a traffic accident or shot in the face. Nothing surprises me nowadays.
On my journey home I felt depressed and wished I hadn’t left the house. I kept thinking of that poor man bleeding on the pavement whilst the heavens opened. For all my wishful thinking and daily gratitude practice I cannot shake off the dark shadow that is my constant companion. The sucker of joy. My misery parasite. It seems we cannot live without each other.