Tim sits on a patch of grass near the cathedral and asks people for cigarettes and money. His face is red and puffy because of drinking and his glassy eyes look like they’re too young to belong to his desperate body.
He calls passers by sir and miss. Like at school. But Tim didn’t go to school much.
I left when I was about 12. Just sort of ran off a lot. Went for big walks around Sheffield and out to the peak district. Fucking beautiful there though. Really sorts your head out. I mean, I was just a boy really but I had a lot going on in my head, you know? Like, my mam was fucked and my dad was a right cunt.
Tim sort of chuckles, as if it’s all water under the bridge. He says he had to get out of Sheffield when he was about 17 because people were after him. Bad people; real nasty bastards. I’d got this girl pregnant and like, her brothers and their mates were gonna kill us, you know. But there was loads of other bullshit too. Like, gangs and stuff. I dunno, I reckon I would’ve died. Yeah, I’d definitely be dead by now. I was a right cocky bastard.
Tim started drinking when he was about nine. He used to steal tinnies from the shop and drink them in the park. I got caught once, by the shopkeeper. He was a Christian. He said I’d be dead by the time I was 20. That shat me right up. Didn’t stop me though, did it? He chuckles again.
He says he does think about his child. He doesn’t know if it was a boy or a girl but he has a feeling it was a boy for some reason. He’ll be about 30 now. Tim was in and out of prison for much of his thirties, mostly for violent crimes and stealing. He talks about anger and sadness and forgiveness with the kind of language that makes it obvious that he’s picked up some of the go-to, self-help phrases from the group therapy he had when he was inside. I’m not as angry as I was but there’s still a lot of pain, like. I still don’t know what to do with myself half the time. He says that he felt more at home in prison than anywhere else. People understood each other there. There was a sense of belonging, like a family. He misses it, in a way; the security, the routine, the stories he heard, the stories he told.
He still sees his mum every now and then. We don’t really get on, we never did. But, you know, she’s my mam, so… She lives in sheltered accommodation in Chesterfield. She won’t be around forever. She’s not well. A lifetime of drinking has given her cirrhosis. Tim says that the wardens in her accommodation just leave her to it these days. She’s just wasting away to be honest with you. Bit like me; like mother like son. Another chuckle. He has a sister but he doesn't see her. She got married and moved down south. She's all posh now. She washed her hands of me ages ago. He tells a story about when he and his sister were kids and she caught him drinking behind the house. He says she was furious with him and nearly broke his arm trying to get the can out of his hand. I dunno what she does. She's probably a fucking policewoman or some shite like that.
Tim’s dad died about ten years ago. He just dropped dead in the pub. Just like that. Good riddance, I say. The world’s a better place without him to be honest with you. Tim pulls up his t-shirt to reveal a scar from when his dad stabbed him at the age of 22. They had a fight that got out of hand and the next thing Tim knew, he was on the floor in a puddle of his own blood and his dad had disappeared. I had to walk to the hospital. I dunno how I did it. Fuck’s sake. Tim shakes his head and looks around at the people walking past him. He nods hello to someone and asks if they have any spare change.
It starts to rain. Tim’s badly rolled cigarette starts to come apart in his oversized hand. He takes a drag of it, coughs violently and spits out the contents of his lungs onto the grass. He looks up at the sky and raises his eyes to heaven. Fucking Manchester weather, he says, and starts to chuckle again.