Gordon had an impulse to leave the office to think. He headed around the corner to the main road. Without any idea where to go and not wanting to leave his depleted team unattended for too long, he just stood there. A glamorous woman paced past him on heels and drew a paper bag from the sandwich shop away to avoid hitting him, and he resisted the urge to turn around to take note of the view of the back of her blouse and trousers. A couple of women jogging together in blue T-Shirts sporting the name of the accountancy firm they worked for then went either side of him, revealing a view of a homeless man sat against a wall in his sleeping bag. As he hated lunchtime joggers – a sanctimonious bunch who thought they owned the pavements – his mood worsened even more.
The deep hum of idle engines filled the street, with the four-storey banking buildings either side offering the sound no chance to escape. A trio of cyclists streamed alongside a white van, which was stuck behind a pair of buses, each packed with faces obscured by the thick glass and smattering of free newspapers. A cyclist with a camera attached to his helmet then swore at a taxi driver who had been attempting to seize possession of a cycle lane before turning left.
There has to be someone out there who can do a job for me? Gordon thought. He wasn’t a bad boss. Okay he wasn’t too chummy or jokey and never went to the pub for drinks, but he certainly wasn’t mean or slimy either. Cold calling wasn’t always fun, he appreciated that, but the buzz of making a sale was something special. He sighed. How to find the right person though, in that lot? Where were all the young Mr and Miss Run of the Mills hiding? How to spot one when he saw one? First he would have to wade through all the copy and pasted CVs and cover letters that he had volunteered to check through.
Nigel shuffled along by the wall to grab hold of a discarded Pret a Manger bag. A good chunk of double chocolate muffin had been left inside, folded inside the wrapper – it was amazing how many people left the drier bit at the bottom of the muffin. Nigel gracefully bit into it.
Then he shovelled it away as he saw a well-worn polka-dot dress and pair of black women’s boots stride into his vision.
He grabbed his empty coffee cup and held it aloft. “Any spare change, love?” he asked. A splattering of pound coins then nearly knocked the cup out of his grasp.
Years of sitting out in the streets of London had given Nigel the ability to judge a person’s level of charity simply by the way they walked. From ideological teenagers tiptoeing in torn jeans to help him to nasty folk in big boots and all those who scurried straight past him. He’d seen it all.
An arrogant-looking businesswoman walked past with a bag of sandwiches that she tilted away from him, seemingly out of fear he was going to jump up and grab them. She also reached over her shoulder to grip her handbag. If only she had a hand free she probably would have held her nose.
Then two pairs of finely shaped sports leggings ran by without the women running in them even noticing him. That always pleased Nigel. He dreamed of one day no longer being a person who people turned to look at over their shoulders or whispered to their friends about or peered down and said “is there any way I can help you?” or shouted “get a job!” at those times when the bars were packed and he became a figure of amusement rather than a public nuisance. It was like what the celebrities felt, no doubt, except they all had castles to go back to. Just to eat a leftover piece of muffin without feeling that five pairs of eyes were watching him would be bliss.
Nigel took a mental note of the impressive behinds of the joggers. A pair of loafers at the end of some black suit trousers then stepped this way, then that way in front of Nigel. He looked up to see a middle-aged businessman looking around. He could have been lost, except he didn’t seem puzzled, more sorrowful. Not worth my while asking him for money, Nigel decided.