You Name It

Entry by: jaguar

31st January 2018
The gayest man I ever met just saved my life. Any problem with accepting that is obviously mine, his girly scarf around his neck has nothing to do with me, I know it's wrong to hate it. Yet he could see what I was in the haunch of my shoulders, the granited skin. However hard I scrub, the filth from my job embeds itself in me.

He saw my eyes slide when he asked if I wanted help. He heard the butch tone in my reply. That old just trying to work it out line. I’d worked it out. I knew this puncture, this late for work again was the end of the line. Some jobs just unweave you, it’s only afterwards you can name what got unknotted.

‘I’m Thomas,’ he said in an east-european accent and offered an immaculate hand. ‘I can help.’

It alarmed me, how clean that hand was, how different to my mangy paws. ‘Dave.’ I hit his fingers with my knuckles. ‘Think I saw a nail in that tyre. Guess it’s done its work.’

Sympathy settled around his mouth as he examined the wheel. ‘Ah. You couldn’t afford to fix it? Once I did that and it blew on the Deathly highway you call the M25. They say you review your life in the seconds before it ends. I thought I’d die but just let a tiny sigh escape and said oh well.’

Surprised I drew my head back into my hunched shoulders. ‘Really? You look like you’ve got it made. I can’t believe you were ever as strapped for cash as I am. As useless at life.’

He unscrewed the bolts deftly then wiggled the wheel off before his head jutted towards me like an ostrich. ‘Cash and hope, Dave, cash and hope. They are often the same thing. I have been so poor I lived like clichés. You name it. Circumstances reduced me to nothing at all in immigration centres; both ends never meeting when I was released; poor as a church mouse after years of people not wanting to know.’

‘A church mouse?’ My mouth twisted to defend myself against that image. We used to have mice, they’re ingenious horrors.

He produced a tube from the boot of his Audi, inserted it in my tyre, pushed a button. ‘Sorry. Wrong words perhaps. I keep trying to fit in with your culture. How you name it. But I stumble over it so much. You are tolerant but you have these reactions like white zits – they explode. I am afraid sometimes.’

White zits. I nodded my head calculating how long it would take to get to the job. I’d set off early. Could probably just scrape in on time. ‘What if we’re scared of what we don’t know. Let’s name it – I was scared of poofs and foreigners then you came by.‘

He squeezed then patted the tyre, removed the magic tube and put the wheel back on. The bolts were expertly tightened before he removed some wet wipes from his glovebox and painstakingly cleaned his hands. The tyre looked good as new. ‘I was your worst nightmare then. And now?’

I offered him my grubby hand. To his credit he took it without hesitation. Where he'd touched me the dirt on my hand had smeared. ‘Now I think I should be more scared of what I’m doing to myself. If got you wrong what else is there?’ I said.

‘When I was low I tried to imagine how I could get where I wanted to be. Some of it seemed quite easy but most was hard. I found doing anything towards my dream helped my self-esteem.’

Self-esteem. People like me don’t have that kind of luxury. I watched him take his Audi key out of his pocket, waited until the road was empty and hit him twice in the guts, as hard as I could. He went down, hit his head on the kerb and lay still. Like I said, he saved my life. If I’d turned up late with that pile of shite I’d just nicked as a get-away car it would have been my last job. A classy Audi would create a much better impression. He'd helped my self-esteem no end.