Right, I’ve been putting this off for a while – mainly because it feels like quite a big story, and I already tried starting it a few days ago but got exhausted by the second line. But I feel ready now. I’m ready to talk about Kenny*.
Kenny was – is, hopefully, still – the guy I met on my way home from Lizzy’s club night last Friday. It was around two or two-thirty, and Lizzy had just played two packed rooms of a debut night. (Well done again, Lizzy!) I’d had a fun wee dance around with Ryan, had a fair few drinks, and was quite content to call it a night before closing time. I check the bus app – eight minutes til the night bus, peachy – and head out into the February night.
I meet – well, let’s rephrase that – I encounter Kenny slumped in my bus shelter on South Bridge. I ask him if he’s doing ok, but from the rolled-back whites of his eyes and the way he’s chewing his own cheeks, I can see he’s doing a belter. He manages to get a few details out – he’s called Kenny, he’s from Stirling**, he’s out at Cab Vol with some mates – but generally he has trouble being coherent. I look up, and see my bus approaching.
I’ve thought back on my subsequent move a few times in the week since, and the question I keep coming back to is this: would I have taken Kenny home if he was a homeless person? The answer I’ve fielded is no, I wouldn’t, and when asked (by myself) to extrapolate, my immediate answer has been that a homeless person knows what they’re getting themselves in for. Kenny was in no fit state to know anything about his position – he was a wasted stranger in an unfamiliar place – so the way I see it, he was more of a danger to himself than someone who’s perhaps accustomed to sleeping rough.
Not only does that gloss over all the poor souls who find themselves unexpectedly sleeping rough for the first time, it’s also complete bullshit. The reason I took Kenny home and don’t regularly do the same for homeless people is I could see Kenny was, at worst, a 12-hour problem. By morning, I expected him to have regained at least some of his composure, and I could happily send him on his way, and get all those altruistic good feels of helping someone in a tight spot without any of the attendant realisation that this particular tight spot was just a drop in wide, shitty ocean. Of course, this is a conclusion I’ve come to one week after the fact. At the time, I was just helping out a guy I happened to stumble across. But I’m now aware my mind was making all sorts of calculations beyond my immediate ken.
Anywho, the bus tears by as I’m helping Kenny to his feet. He’s asking me for directions to Cab Vol – it is literally round the corner and down a hill, he could fall there with enough momentum – but I manage to convince him that he won’t get back in (he won’t) and that he’s better off getting somewhere safe to lay his head for the night (he is). I feel a bit bad that I’m able to convince him so easily – if I had malign intentions, it’d be just as easy to take advantage of him in this state, in any number of ways – but, luckily for us both, I don’t. As a last ditch effort to make him somebody else’s problem I ask him if he can reach any of his pals on his phone – not expecting much, as they’re in a club and probably not responding to calls, never mind the fact Kenny’s managed to give them the slip without seeming to cause them any bother so far. Kenny’s so mashed he can’t even unlock his phone though, so I let it drop and flag down a taxi.
In the back of the cab, between watching Kenny mash his fingers against his phone screen and telling him don’t worry about it, it’s no problem, no it’s cool, just chill, I keep an eye on the driver, wondering what he thinks is going on. Wondering if he’s listening and realising I don’t know Kenny, and making a mental note of this particular fare in case the police come calling looking for the last known whereabouts of Kenny Farquarson* of Stirling** and he has to give a description of what went on. And then I remember I’m not a preyer on whacked-out cheek-chewers, and I’ve got nothing to worry about. Although if Kenny did somehow accidentally die in my custody, it’d be far from ideal.
We manage to make it back to my place without Kenny spewing all over the cab, for which both I and the driver are thankful. I pay the driver, hustle Kenny upstairs, plop him on the couch, place a glass of water within arm’s reach (though not where he can kick it over), and turn off the light. He passes out almost instantly; as I leave him to it, I make a last minute decision and grab his phone, to see if I can have any better luck with it than he can.
It is indeed locked, but by this point Kenny’s received a couple of missed calls – a Dan, I think, and a Laura*** – and I can swipe to call them back without actually unlocking the phone. Sadly, neither of them answers, but just as I’m about to give up, I do get a call from a Rick***. I answer.
‘Uh, hi, this is Kenny’s phone.’
‘No it’s fucking not, it’s mine!’ says a woman’s voice.
‘You have my phone!’
‘Oh, right… shit. Ok, so here’s what happened-‘ I can hear firm-lipped skepticism on the other end. ‘You… you were in Cab Vol, right?’
‘Yeah, and I’ve lost my jacket, which had my money, and my keys, and my wallet, and my fucking phone in the pockets-‘
‘Yeah, so, Kenny picked up your jacket.’
‘- and – what, is he your pal or something?’
‘No, he’s-‘ this is gonna sound weird ‘- he’s, erm, just some guy I took home because I thought he might freeze to death.’
I manage to convince the woman (let’s call her Kirsty***) that Kenny and I are (a) two totally real, totally distinct separate people, and (b) not a pickpocketing network targeting unwary clubbers. I give her my address and tell her she’s welcome to come pick up the phone, jacket and assorted paraphernalia.
Twenty minutes later I meet Kirsty and two male friends – the shorter one who I assume is Rick, the taller of whom strikes me as a Bob – on the street. (I figured inviting them into the flat, in close proximity to Kenny, might just make things awkward.) I silently commend Kirsty for not coming to meet a strange man, who has all her stuff, on her own. And also for being really understanding when I tell her I’m 90% certain Kenny had no malicious intent, that he genuinely just picked up the wrong jacket, and that he’s been trying to get into her phone all night like it was his own. She buys it, in other words, which is more than can be said for Rick.
‘So where is he then?’ says Rick.
‘Crashed out on my couch. Honestly man, he’s a mess, don’t even worry about it.’
Rick seems somewhat placated. ‘Well, ok… I mean, we came down here ready to kick off.’
I look at Rick the white knight, all four foot nine of him. Anybody who knows me will tell you that I’m not exactly somebody you’d want you backing you up in a fight, but I can tell you I am twice the man Rick is. If only in weight.
I bid them farewell – Kirsty thanking me and saying she’ll never leave all her important shit lying around in a nice-looking jacket on the floor of a club again, so at least someone’s learned something – and head back up to the flat. After checking on Kenny – still passed out – I get into bed, and am just about asleep when my girlfriend Judy comes in from her own night on the town. To her credit, she takes my story about the blackout-drunk stranger on our couch in her stride, and even serves to remind me of one of my better one-liners in the morning: ‘You know how you get those situations where you think, “Well at least I’ll be able to laugh about this later”? Well I’m laughing now.’
Seven thirty a.m., and we awake to Kenny standing over our bed, not shouting, but very definitively asking,
‘Where’s my phone?’
‘Uhm…’ I struggle to pull myself out of several layers of deep sleep and deliver a coherent answer. ‘It wasn’t actually your phone, Kenny.’
‘Aye it was.’
‘Afraid not, man. You picked up someone else’s jacket on the way out the club. She came by for it last night, after you fell asleep. It was her phone.’
‘Naw it wisnae.’
By this point I’m out of bed and thankful I hadn’t slept nude the night before. I’m guiding Kenny out of the room as non-threateningly as I can, so Judy can continue sleeping. Eventually he buys the phone story and, in a flash of problem-solving nous I would not have suspected him of possessing, asks to borrow my phone, log into his Facebook Messenger account, and internet-dial his absent pals.
I’ve overheard less fraught phonecalls. Kenny’s pals – ensconced in a hotel in the city centre – think he’s copped off with some lucky lady, and won’t believe his story til I pop on the line to set the record straight. After he finds out their address and room number, he makes sure he’s logged out on my phone – again, unexpectedly sensible of him – and asks me to call him a taxi, which arrives a few minutes later.
‘Aw cheers pal, thanks so much,’ he says on his way out the door, and then pauses to thrust his hands down his underpants, withdrawing a sweaty baggie of pills. ‘Here, ye want some drugs?’
‘I’m… I’m good man, thank you.’
‘You sure? Good shit man, I swear.’
Yeah, I’ve seen that. ‘No… no, that’s alright Kenny, you keep ’em.’
He’s already on his way down the stairs, drugs safely returned to his scrotal region. ‘Cheers again man, thanks a million – eh, add me on Facebook, aye!?’
I nod and wave him goodbye while silently confirming that fuck no, I wouldn’t be adding Kenny on Facebook. Happy as I am to have helped the guy, if all things go well, I’ll never see his face again.
*Not his real name.
*** Totally made up.