He knots his fingers and flexes his hands jerkily, scrapes clean stripes on his arm and neck. My lip twitches with sadness at his grimy hands trembling. Eyes down, glued to his boots, they’re good boots. He startles onlookers with his strange muttering. I’m only a step away or at least a short distance from him. My gaze wanders across his prematurely lined features and the weathered cloth of his twine tied coat. I catch the eye of my passing waitress, who nods knowingly. I wave my fingers, more chewed than she would have seen even yesterday. I quickly fist them away, out of sight. She returns with a bag of pre ordered takeout. I keep watch as I settle the bill. Coffee spilt due to its weight on the wobbly-legged table. Her eyes soften as she apologises and without looking down she wipes it up. I hear the tear of card, from her note pad, watch as she expertly folds and pushes it under the leg. I think, ‘If only it could be that easy to fix everything’. Her smile is kind she blinks away the telltale tears undercover of the table. Nods once looking back towards the road and my brother. Her shoulders slump, and with a sigh, she continues to clear tables. My explanation spilt out six months ago when I first found him. Now it sits like secrets between spies. ‘A nod is as good as a tapped nose.’ Dad used to say when we were kids. We loved telling him it was wrong. “No, it’s a nod is as good as a wink Martin would sing,” We would taunt. Dad, doesn’t joke much anymore; not one of us does.
I push a paper napkin into my cheek, twist it thoughtlessly in my fist, suck in my breath and watch. Martin takes too much time manoeuvring around unseen enemies and mined traps. His lips move; counting each step. Distracted for a moment by a shoulder shove a mumbled word (Crackpot) from an ignorant man. He squats shaking, stares around himself. Again my eyes cloud with yet to spill tears. Four minutes it took for him to walk six feet of the busy pavement. The lunchbreak office staff, bankers, business people and shoppers moan and gripe as he blocks their path. He swallows a precious moment of their hour. A pensioner’s rheumy eyes spot him. He nods knowingly, pats his arm and dodders on.
Martin is close now, with only one road to cross. But I am hopeful, I whisper > today he will be successful <. He stoops, scans the tarmac, takes a breath and runs as if his life depends on it. He is weaving towards me bulging eyes locked with mine. I stand, my face pulls the biggest of grins I feel my arms start to lift. Then a horn blasts, I see him freeze, a voice shouts obscenities. And just like that, … he is gone. There is no point in chasing him. I learned the hard way how that goes. No, I will try again tomorrow and all the other tomorrows that no doubt there will be. With sisterly love and a heavy heart, I tip the server, straighten my back, fasten my coat. I cross the street to give a raggedy bundle in a shop doorway the bag of food that Martin didn’t get. For we never know their story, we only see the remnants of what was.
Too many of our ex military, police, medics Firemen and others are left broken by the trauma they see and clear up every day. This flash fiction is a glimpse at that, a speck of what we know is on our streets, in our towns and villages. Broken discarded people #MentalHealth. Please comment leave me your thoughts below.