High & Dry in London

BY ANDREW MOODY

In the cab toward Trafalgar Square, several police cars zoom past us. It’s getting dark.

“Something’s kicked off,” I say.

“An accident,” the cab driver says. We drive on for a few minutes until we pass a car overturned in the road, sectioned off by the police.

“Jesus,” I say.

I haven’t told the cab driver I’ve absconded from the Acute Ward, instead I gave him a line about how I was an investigative journalist reporting on the Extinction Rebellion protests which are starting tomorrow morning. We talked about Covid 19 (he thinks it’s a hoax) Tommy Robinson, the music he likes (Isaac Hayes) and I give him an extra tenner to make it look as if my story is commissioned.

“Okay mate,” he says as we pull up to Trafalgar Square, “You okay to get out here?”

“Sure,” I say. I give him my Twitter address and tell him to get in touch. I get out, clock the police who have coordinated the area, and decide to go to McDonald’s. There are fewer homeless people than usual. My phone vibrates. It’s the police, asking me to call them. I ignore it, get a Big Mac and a coffee, and walk up the Strand, my feet aching from the psoriasis that is covering the soles of my feet.

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I have saved over a grand in the year I’ve been incarcerated in Mental Health wards, and as I see the plush hotel in front of me, I wonder if I can get a room. I like the idea of writing my article for a homeless charity whilst in a five star hotel. I’m wearing a cheap hoody, and have TRUMP 2020- KEEP AMERICA GREAT wristbands on. The security is eyeballing me, the girl at the desk is nervous as she gives the room key to a young man in a suit and the girl he is with, obviously an escort. I don’t look at them as the young man starts theatrically thanking the girl at the desk. The escort maintains a stony silence. The desk girl turns to me.

“How much for one night?” I smile.

“I’m afraid it’s £345, you can’t afford it.”

I actually can afford it, but I’m rather put off by how sleazy late night hotels are in London.

“Sure I can afford it,” I say gently to the desk girl. “I’ll just go to a cash point.” My phone vibrates again. It’s the police.

“I’ll be back in ten minutes,” I say. I leave the hotel and make the journey on my ripped up feet to Charing Cross. I wave over a cab driver talking to another driver and say: “Bromley?” he tells me the price, I pay him a tenner over, spot a mob of policemen up ahead. My phone rings, it’s the police. I hang up as the cab pulls out of the station. The police have made it clear in no uncertain terms they want me out of here.

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There’s a full moon out tonight. After the cab driver dropped me off at the all night garage, I rolled a joint in the park opposite the flat I used to live in. I’m not much good at rolling joints, as a teenager I spent my time writing whereas my friends spent their time perfecting the art of the roll. My psychiatrist didn’t want me to live in the flat because every other resident was a crack and heroin addict. My feet are in agony. I tried to get a room in both Bromley hotels, they were only taking card and I only had cash. I rest my back up against a tree, take a toke and exhale. In my opinion, if you can both throw and take a punch, cannabis is a viable mood stabilizer.

I stare up at the full moon. It’s been an interesting night, but I’m legitimately homeless. There’s only one thing for it. Have breakfast in a cafe then take a cab back to the unit. I’ll just have to hope they take pity on me and don’t cancel my leave. We’ll see.

Follow Andrew Moody on Twitter @Voguishfiction