They made a big act out of ignoring him, not getting too near, finding interest in dismal things rather than catch his eye. A woman buried a hand inside her bag to look for something that wasn’t there and interpreting this as preparing to buy a magazine the vendor took a step toward her. Noticing this and in a kind of confusion she immediately crossed the road and a distance away crossed back. He continued, begging more than anything, pleading with the people going along the cracked unhappy slabs of the narrow pavement with a kind of lasting pleeease that took a while to vanish into the unusually vibrant blue sky everywhere, icy and without clouds and somehow looking inwards with intensity.
He didn’t seem to have much English but he made the most of what he knew. Going by I felt weak hearing that pleeease whilst staring at the ground but not really seeing the ground. The ground more like a mirror reflecting my thoughts and my feelings and I would tread on them and everybody would end up treading on them. The bitter wind, made visible in things like the shop sign gently lifting in its peeling tubular frame as the leaves in a sudden burst of motion were collected and moved about, almost seemed to bear some small guilt for a moment and dropped causing the brittle leaves to lose momentum and remain in a new place.
A man approached the vendor.
‘Listen I would buy a copy from you but I’ve spent all my money on medicine,’ he said, lifting a hand full of small plastic bottles and containers gripped at the lid. The Big Issue seller looked at the things being shown to him and then back up at the man unsure of what was being said or why, and with a forced air of something like cheerfulness offered him a magazine with a gesture of the hand.
‘No, no, I’ve just spent every last penny I had on these,’ the man said with a sudden irritability in his voice, ‘I’ve nothing left.’
‘Pleeease,’ the vendor said with the same hopelessness as ever, the shop sign stilled. The other man shook his head and lifted an arm around the vendors shoulder and pulled him closer to speak in his ear.
‘I need this medicine, do you understand my friend?'