It was a busy night at St Mary’s A&E, as Megan and I left, walking sheepishly past the ward desk. Everyone was so busy dealing with the excesses of a Saturday night, they didn’t notice us creep past. My head was banging harder than ever. The nurse had put six staples in the top, near the crown, where the bottle had caused the worst damage. I still felt dizzy, from the throbbing and a little disorientated from the pain killers they had given me. Megan looked worried, trying her best to keep me up right, stumbling as she went. She was only small, quite petite really, just over five foot in height. I on the other hand was just over six foot, an odd combination, at first sight, but two people very much in love, having suffered tremendously during our short time together. The more we lived through, the closer we became. Jointly we felt invincible, apart nothing but!
Finally we reached the entrance; the woman at the desk, in the foyer, glanced over, lowering her glasses to the tip of her nose. She was stern, dead pan face, emotionless, the official face of the hospital.
‘Are you OK, can I help you!’ she enquired firmly, as we turned away from her gaze, looking directly at the glass doors.
‘We’re alright, thank you!’ Magan shouted back, her voice crumbling, as she stopped me falling, on the step of the vestibule, grabbing my waist, holding me as upright as she could!
‘We were, um just er, er, visiting a friend; we, er have to go, no time to talk’ Magan continued, leaning me up against a wall, gently guiding me through the revolving doors, into the outside.
By now, Magan was practically dragging me along, down a steep slope, used by wheelchairs and out into the afternoon hustle and bustle, along the high street, stopping every few yards, taking a look over her back, making sure we weren’t being followed. Of course we weren’t, but clouded judgement, fear of the unknown and the need to stay together, bought many anxieties to the surface. Megan’s adrenaline was working on over drive at least; it felt like we were running for ages. I was shattered, debilitated and just needed a moment to rest. Eventually we reached the relative safety of Sussex Gardens, far enough away from the hospital, where we took a breather. Neither of us, had a clue why we were running? Or what we were running from? We just needed to get away from that place; they would tear us apart and we wouldn’t see each other again.
The weather was starting to get cold. It was November; we had lost everything and would find it difficult keeping warm, without some form of protection, so we set off towards Paddington Station, to find shelter for the night. You really don’t know how difficult it is, finding a spot to sleep in London. London is of course a vast city, with many back streets and lanes, most of which are unsafe for the likes of us at night. We always preferred to stay in the more noticeable areas, just in case anything happened. When Megan and I first found ourselves sleeping rough, we quite quickly became victims. I may be nursing a broken head today, but we encountered far worse in the past.
Within a couple of days, of being homeless, drifting, deperate, in the early hours of a Tuesday morning, both Magan and myself were held at knife point, after sleeping in the service entrance of a well known hotel. The back street of the establishment was narrow, poorly lit and difficult to run away from. I stood there up against the back doors, of this prestigious hotel, in front of Magan, shaking with fear, all the while shielding her from this knife carrying attacker. With the blade up against my throat, he used his hands to search my pockets, for the little change I had left. He demanded Magan, stand up and show herself. Keeping the knife, firmly near my neck, he again searched Magan, taking the one item she had left, from her life, living with her Mother, long since dead, A silver locket, a picture and a lock of hair, viciously removed from her collar.
Magan knew there was nothing she could do; I could see the tears welling up in her eyes, yet couldn't do anything to help her. We had spoken before about what to do, should anything like this happen. It was our ‘emergency procedure’ if you like. Stay still, motionless, not making a sound and give the aggressor whatever they wanted. When you end up on the streets, in the manner we did, you know very well, just how precious life is. Things, items, are worthless when you spend every day trying to survive. Never again would we sleep down a back alley, away from the public gaze, that was our mistake and we had learned from it.
Padding Station wasn’t too bad, compared to some of the places we had stayed in the past. I knew from previous experience that some members of the local church, would come by, regularly, offering soup and a bun, to the homeless that frequented the station at night. In reality it didn’t matter where I rested; I was in severe pain and couldn’t go on for much longer. A doorway is a doorway in the end, and as long as I could lean against something, anything, just to ease the pain, I would be happy.
Still supporting my body weight, Magan finally got us both to Paddington. We found a spot next to the tube entrance, which offered some shelter, from the cold. An old cardboard box, left, tucked up behind the ticket machine, would accord us both some warmth and maybe we could find something to eat. It was an ideal spot; commuters running for their train, would generally discard food, a half eaten sandwich, a packet of crisps, anything edible. Both Megan and I hadn’t eaten for two days, we just needed something to keep us going, to help us sleep. Like most things in our life recently, it would be another night of anguish, as the pain in my head got worse. This was no normal head wound, this was something serious. Tomorrow the urgency of my situation would become clear!