John Doe

A man huddles in a doorway, shielding his silhouette from the passing patrol car. They will move him on, or worse still, throw him in the back of the vehicle; another bum to be dumped in the menacing chaos of the shelter. More than once they have asked ‘Haven’t you got a home to go to?’

He doesn’t know. He thinks he may have had once, but his thoughts come with no certainty.

There are lapses when the fog in his brain seems to thin and the images solidify. He remembers the noise, the dust, the running. He sees blue sky swamped with a grey flooding cloud, paper flakes dancing in the currents of the blast. He recalls the smallest fragments coming to earth so much slower than the mighty structures. So many people all the same colour as the cloud masking the sky. Screams, sirens, silence.

After a while, the running slowed to a walk. He has walked ever since yet never left the city.  At the start there were people who gave out soup and blankets. Hungry and cold, he wonders where they are now.

He twists his head round the corner of the doorway. The patrol car has passed. There is a trash can just a few yards up with what looks like a burger box on the top. He pulls himself upright and moves towards it, pushing his matted hair back from a face engraved with the dirt of the streets. The disarray makes him look older than his years; on close inspection the bright blue of his eyes and the basecoat of black in his hair suggest a man of much younger years.

There is nothing in the burger box but the discarded gherkin. The best bit he thinks, pushing the shred into his mouth. As he continues down the broad avenue, red, white and blue memorial lights from the skyline’s tallest tower play on the back of his tattered jacket. The city remembers for him.

[Sheila Scott]

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