That man you saw today, the one with the overcoat stained dark in places with red wine and piss, its buttons hanging off, the fur on its hood matted with spit and sick – what? You don’t remember? Odd, because you wrinkled your nose as his odour wafted up to meet it and then stared just a fraction of a moment too long to be polite before stepping over him and continuing on your way.
So now you remember, that’s good, though I can tell from your expression as you recall the encounter that you have made your judgement. Smelly old tramp, waster; you view him with disdain though you pertain to feel empathy towards him. You think he made his bed and now he’s lying in it, and in a way that’s true, if you can stretch your imagination enough to call the kerb a bed.
It might surprise you to learn he was like you once, with shiny new shoes click-clacking on the street and slicked back hair like Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. He had a wife, a job in the City – a good job as it happens, one that saw him earn a lot of money in a very short time, which was, ironically, what led to his downfall.
What they don’t tell people like him – and you – at university is that money and success don’t come without a price. They make you greedy and they leave you always wanting more. They blind you to the simple pleasures, the ones that cost nothing; a sleepy bedtime kiss from your daughter (oh no, wait, you’re never home in time for that these days) and lazy morning lie-ins with your wife (when you’re not too hung over to enjoy them after another post-trading-floor-piss-up).
That man you saw today; once, he thought he had it all. Then, just as suddenly he had nothing at all.
That man was me, but know this, my friend: He could just as easily have been you.