I wait outside Boots as the clock crawls towards nine. The men waiting for their methadone are genial and unsober. The loudest lets me go first. I am a visitor to his morning regular. A tourist.
I slip back into the world of commuters. Civilians avoiding eye contact, reading listicles like ‘top five Londoners you wish you didn’t have to speak to’. This list includes ‘the bus nut’, complete with illustration. A cartoon of the men I was waiting with, or the people seen shuffling around Camberwell, out from the Maudsley. Some wandering, broken-eyed, some shouting, some sheltering in Rock Steady Eddie’s. All of them human beings.
I realise the brutal self interest of the 1980s had children, and they embedded themselves at the heart of our culture. Sometimes there is no compassion, only regurgitated punchlines.
We used to make jokes about ‘skits’ when I was in in school. Wild-eyed men shouting on buses. Nervous hilarity. But I grew up.
This city produces mental illness like it produces lying estate agents.
I have pneumonia again.
Something died in me last time.
Sometimes I wish more had.