Actually that’s BS; all the funny stuff happened at A&E. That line was just to hook you in, dear fishy reader. Actually getting there was quite the opposite of funny.
So yesterday morning I walked from Hove to Hanover to see my GP about a lumpy bruise on my face from faceplanting on a patio at a house party ten days ago. I made the mistake of telling folk it was because of the punch. People thought I had received a punch. No no, I scooped up the punch and put it in a beaker and then put it in my face. Which also can result in pain, as it turns out.
The doc referred me to Hove Polyclinic. I put in a few hours at work, then walked all the way there. 2.8 miles.
They told me they didn’t have the equipment to do facial x-rays there, and told me to instead go to A&E. Which is all the way over here:
I walked back home. Legs now jelly, sciatic nerve breakdancing, I bought a restorative milkshake and got the No. 27 to Royal Sussex. For those of you who know me and buses, this is kind of a big deal. For those of you that don’t, it’s mostly the reluctance to exchange what could buy me a four pack of beer for the privilege of travelling across the city.
Got to A&E, got my book out, and prepared for a long wait.
Then Brighton’s answer to Howard Marks sits next to me. And gives me his life story. For two hours.
Never once pausing to ask me my name, what I was in for or who I work for, I learn everything from his siphoning petrol in the dead of the night to ways of doubling the worth of travellers cheques, to scamming for Council for its houses. I hear how he sold gange to some African president. He left the country with £350 in his pocket and a beat up old van, returning after nine years of travelling from Torremolinos to Africa to Cyprus to Prague to Vienna etc etc ad infinitum, returning with £25,000 and a Merc.
At the beginning of this discourse I was leaning away and tearing the fuck out of the skin around my fingernails, anxiously waiting for my name to be called. By the end I was laughing and wanting to high five the bugger.
Every time Dean got called in to a consulting room I was waiting for somebody to take his place. I mean, it was interesting and all but in the third hour of waiting it was getting hard to focus, and I just wanted to read. I took my notebook out and scrawled illegibly in red pen, which is probably why nobody took the empty chair next to me. Who wants to sit next to the hunched over bleached bruised mess writing in JTHM font? I wrote about some of the things he said, in code, lest he return and spot them and stab me for spilling his secrets.
Then I returned to my book. It was open on a page featuring a character also named Dean. Was there some kind of Kaiser Söze situation going on here?
Before I decided that he was kind of a dude and he was talking about cars made of hemp, I got to thinking, “Why me?” I always attract the diamond geezers, the drug lords with the track marks down the arms, the scarecrows. One time I was escaping my book group with the excuse of a cigarette and I had a wild-eyed Boris Johnson-on-crack type told me all about a witch who put a curse on Brighton meaning that nobody who comes here to find success achieves it until they leave the place. The father celebrating his son getting out of prison, them both topping up their Guinness with vodka hidden under the table and telling me all about doing time. I don’t know what it is that attracts them, perhaps they sense a loner and a nomad or it’s the scuffed DMs or other things marking me out as an oddball. They never pick up on the introvert aura though, and yabber on regardless.
In a lull between how to fix central heating in France and the use of marijuana to relieve chronic pain, Dean-o actually asked what I was reading.
”Best British Short Stories 2012. I like to write, ya see, and when I’m not writing I’m reading them. Research.” He gave me some recommendations and then got called in again. I looked at the words on the pages without taking them in. Peeped at my scrambled words in my notebook. Dean is the one who should be writing stories, I thought.
If I wasn’t a bird, I’d probably go to bars all the time and just hang around waiting to hear the life stories of folk like Dean, and then crib off them. Here’s to Dean.