Just another homeless man
It isn’t often in life you meet a complete and utter stranger and after 40mins of conversing this stranger has you sitting on the DLR train line in an overwhelming emotional wreck.
On the 8th September 2014 I wasn’t quite expecting to meet the gentle fellow I was about to meet. I was stood outside London Euston station with my one strawberry and lime Reckorderlig, my extra slim swan filters, my small green Rizzla and my pouch of Golden Virginia tobacco.
The plan was to have a quick 10min break before hoping on the next train.
As I’m putting my smoking utensils back in my bag, a nervous, deeply-slurred but strong African accent quietly asks me the question “excuse me, do you have spare cigarette?”
The image stood before me was a slender middle-aged black man with barely any hair, wearing primitive blue jeans, busted black trainers, and a moderate looking dark blue pull-over.. He also had disoriented glassy-red eyes.
I reply with a comforting “of course you can man, you got a lighter?” as I pass my cigarette over to the man, luckily he has a lighter. I roll another.
As I’m rolling my cigarette he begins to try and explain what he was doing out here by the station asking for cigerettes, “I live round dere, Islington hostel. I come for cigarette but run out”. As he speaks again I notice the dreadful condition of his teeth, front ones missing, the others barely able to withstand being in his mouth.
Interested, I began to ask him what it was like living there, “It not bad. I get bed. TV. Sofa. Kitchen”. “Not bad at all” I reply, “so have you had a good day today?” He proceeds to tell me something about a fellow called Welbeck and football, he got very enthusiastic when telling me Welbeck had scored a goal, and also gets very passionate to tell me his favourite team is Chelsea. I proceed to congratulate him, although I couldn’t talk about football as I knew nothing about it.
I ask to shake his hand and also for his name and where he’s from. He replies “Mo, Giddy, I’m from Somalia. Brought here when I was younger by my parents”, with our hands still firmly connected I tell him my name is Kenya Scarlett.. He smiles.
Without asking (I just assumed) I told him to sit down and wait whilst I got a cup from the café in order to share my Reckorderlig with him. I pour him a cup and explain it’s the best drink in the world, he takes a sip and his face literally lights up Euston station “mmmm is good! Is good! What is?” I explained “strawberry cider mate, good isn’t it! It’s my favourite drink!”
He asks “So what you do?” Please bear in mind throughout all of our conversations it is tough to understand what he is saying most of the time. I explain I’m currently a student studying Music Journalism, “Ah music music! Me like music, you know 2pac? You record me journalist if wish!” I laugh comfortingly but sarcastically “yeah I know 2pac…” He continues “2pac my favourite. I have 10 albums at home, he my favourite he real, Biggy still good, but not so much.” I explained how I grew up on 2pac and Biggie and then stated he must have been devastated when they both died. Mo explained that he was. Then began to explain it was the head of death row records… I agreed.
Moving on from the small talk I asked how he ended up where he was, he begins to explain he has a degree in Economics. He also explains his wife took his kids away from him and he hasn’t seen them since… He tears up a bit.
Something I need to explain about Mo is the order and the way he explains his stories are sometimes difficult to understand. Firstly, he keeps explaining he gets given injections that make him ‘piss himself’, and that the government are trying to steal his money.. After looping around for a little while I click record on my phone.
In the recording he admits and explains to me he has spent £50,000 on crack cocaine and has been clean for 10 years (I found out later in the conversation this is a lie). They give him an injection ‘in his arse’ once and month and he gets given pills however, he doesn’t take them. The government give him ‘ a lot of money’.. Although earlier he claims he government steal it from him. I come to the conclusion that gets shrivelled on booze. He also claims that they won’t help him as he’s black and they are trying to control his life. I proceed to make a terrible joke.
During the conversation I tell him I have to leave (unfortunately I didn’t realise blackberry voice notes only record for 5:00 minutes, you can imagine the anger after I left Mo fucking Blackberry wankers). But then out of nowhere a man comes and gives him a packet of crisps. His name is Matthew and claims he is also ‘street’ like Mo. I ask if they knew each other and apparently they only met earlier.
Mo explains pretty everything he has explained to me to Matt. After 5mins of conversation Matt, who I found to be very wise says to Mo it hasn’t been 10 years since he last took crack, Mo then admits it’s been only 6 months… At this point I don’t know what to believe, and if this conversation was actually a truth or a lie, but I went with my gut and trusted Mo. Matt explains he steers clearly away from crack because of his mother and this is how he knows a lot about it. He claims a lot of the homeless chew red crack sticks from Kenya because they are cheaper however, they ‘fuck with your head’. After meeting Mo, I believe Matt.
Matt I both try to advise Mo to stop spending money on alcohol, and drugs if he is and to look after himself as he then claims he can’t even eat, he blames the government for everything.
Even though I had only know Mr Giddy for half an hour, and what right did I have to tell him how to live his life but I told him everything would be fine, he needed to stop drinking, stop drugs and get his life back on track, everyone makes mistakes but it’s how you deal with it that makes us better people.
He starts welling up..
Then came the most shocking and troubling story of them all. Mo agreed with me saying he will sort himself out but sometimes he just couldn’t help it. ‘Once. Some-one was rude to me. When I wa’ drunk. I stabbed him.’
‘Stabbed?’ I understandably shockingly replied. He explains Instead of ending up in prison he ended up in a mental health institution.
As much as I didn’t want to cut the conversation short, and honestly I really didn’t but I had to catch a train. I left the conversation by saying to Mo he had to learn to trust people and those doctors that are trying to hurt you are actually trying to help you. If you meet someone and they don’t give you the time of day then ignore them, don’t let it get to you. I used myself as an example by saying ‘I gave you a cigarette today and that you could trust me. However, if someone didn’t you ignore them and move on, that just means that they are a dick head!’ I’m not claiming everyone who hasn’t given a homeless man a cigarette is a dickhead.. But I felt like this man needed some comfort.
As I’m leaving we end up a long hand shake and a back and forth ‘look after yourself’, ‘thank you Kenya’. I could see Mohammad Giddy tearing up as he responds to me. I hug him. And as we hug I can feel his emotions rubbing off on me. I try to hold back the tears and ask him to be strong and I will hopefully see him again one day. With tears in his eyes he thanks me and says he will never forget this day. I don’t know if he was telling the truth or lying, but I certainly will never forget this day.
I shake his hand and reassuringly say ‘you’ve made a friend today’
What disturbs me the most is people who have met (or will) meet Mohammad Giddy wouldn’t have even asked him how his day was. Mistakes are made in life, or in some cases a mistake hasn’t even been made, something could happen to you that you had no control over. We need to let people in sometimes and listen to what they have to say, because after all they may have just needed someone to talk to. I may have made Mo’s day, or he might not even remember me right now, who fucking cares! All I know is I was happy to sit and listen to an actual human fucking being, not a monster who at that moment needed a friend, and I was more than happy to become one.