I never knew him, but like most people living around the centre of Wellington, I had seen him on many occasions. He’d been living rough for far longer than I’d lived in Wellington. No-one knew why he lived like that, but he was a harmless old gent who seemed to have made it his own choice.
One Christmas Eve Becky and I were driving home from the supermarket, up a deserted Molesworth Street towards our home, full of family and light. He seemed to be the only pedestrian for miles, head down and trudging up towards what I now know was his bivvy in the town belt. The warm smell of the cooked chicken on the back seat made me feel guilty, and I wanted to stop and give it to him. It was Christmas after all. But the moment passed by at 50kph and I didn’t think about it again.
The front page of today’s newspaper told of his death. It’s strange and bizarre, and very very sad. I’m not sure why. Maybe because there’s so many unanswered questions. Maybe because the ending of his story reads like fiction… only it’s real and there was a real person there in the rain, dying quietly and politely in the gutter of a busy street on a Monday morning.
The newspaper told me what his name was. I didn’t know that. I didn’t know him at all.