This afternoon, I hurried past a corner near The National Portrait Gallery with my earphones on, hoping that I would get home as soon as I could, as I haven’t had anything to eat since I woke. Forgetting my hunger momentarily, I turned around and thought to myself, “Is there a guy sitting at the pavement sketching?” Jools looked surprised as I retraced my step, walked up to him asking if he’d like a hot beverage. He said that he was doing okay and would rather have some spare change. I rummaged through my coat pocket for a pound and handed it to him. He nodded and thanked me. Curious, I pointed to the picture of a rose and heart he was holding. “Did you draw that?”

“Yes I did, it took me about 24 hours, I have a few others as well.” He turned the pages of his sketchbook, showing me his previous work, which consisted of a dragon and park scenery. “I sometimes sell my sketches. When people see them, they will ask me if they can buy it, and I’ll let them offer the price.”

A Chinese lady stopped to talk to him for a while after looking at his sketches. She spoke to me for a bit in Mandarin, probably perplexed as to why I was sitting beside a homeless guy. After she left, Jools asked about our conversation.

“She was just asking me where I’m from. I mean, even though I’m Chinese I’m not necessarily from China.”

“So where are you from?”

“Malaysia.”

“Malaysia! My dad was sent there during the Second World War! He was in the army. So was I, actually. I served in Northern Irelands for five years before getting kicked out. Those were the worst years of my life. I was only twenty-two, and homeless.”

“Why were you expelled?”

“I punched my commander in the face three times! He insulted my father, and being the third best boxer in the regiment [at that time] didn’t do him any good,” he chuckled. His eyes flickered from a hint of excitement that quickly led to sadness as he spoke of his father. “My old man is dead now, though.”

“Look, you’ve been sitting with me for a long time. Nobody apart from that lady stopped to look or even talk to us. It gets lonely when the cold concrete is your home. People don’t understand, all they do is judge. I’ve seen and gone through really horrible things, the things that people don’t want to see. When I was in Milton Keynes, there was a three year old boy that got hit by a cab.  I’ve been stabbed seven times; I’ve had my kneecap shattered. Sometimes I go to my friends’ for a shower and quick shave, and I’m back on the streets again. It’s tough for a man to be homeless, and it’s even worst for a woman. Last year, around sixteen to eighteen homeless people I knew passed away. It gets lonely when you are homeless, but it’s the kind of loneliness that I’m used to. I just go to sleep and hope that nobody kicks me when I’m asleep.”

Written by Wey Chern Farm

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