There is a beggar I pass each morning on my way to work.
Walking from the train station, and knowing that I will make it to work in good time, I usually walk slowly. I get wrapped up in my thoughts; lost in a world of to-do’s, reflection and planning.
He lives in the subway that passes under the dual carriageway. Some days, when it’s sunny, he sits in the unsheltered area, between the steps to the left, and the ramp to the right. If it’s raining, he sits in the middle of the tunnel, facing the wall.
Always in the middle.
Sometimes he smiles and says hello, and sometimes he waves. He tries making contact with everyone that passes. He reminds me of a child, thriving on attention.
I have passed this beggar five days in a row, and over thirty inconsecutively. Each time that I see him, I am abruptly shaken from my self-revolving thoughts.
I notice his clothes, his open, grinning mouth, his up-turned hat that usually holds about 7p, his bright, sad eyes, his missing tooth and the mole on his cheek.
Each time I have passed this beggar, I have asked myself ‘when will that go?’
I think, ‘when will the sight of this beggar stop removing me from my thoughts?’
‘When will I stop noticing him, and all the strange details that surround him?’
I hope that the answer is never; I hope that I don’t get used to sights like these.
I don’t want to get used to the busyness of everywhere and everyone. I don’t want to stop feeling the anonymity of it all.
I don’t want to become accustomed to being pushed up the escalator at 8.45am each morning. I don’t want to become familiar with stern faces and men in suits.
I don’t want to stop noticing the beggar at the subway, with his open-mouthed grin and his 7p.
There is a rawness that I am experiencing, that I’m certain has only come about because I am new to this City, this environment, these people; this way of life. It is a complexity that is unique to now; it won’t be re-created in the same way again.
Before the newness fades and the numbing process of desensitization begins, I want to do something with this feeling, channel it; use it.
I’m going to add a sketchbook, a pen and a camera to my work bag.
I’m going to see what happens, and I’m going to note it down as being an important part of the art of getting by.