Two weeks ago, I walked past the fish and chip shop at the end of my street and watched someone die.
This wasn’t the first time this had happened.
In fact, I’ve seen three people die in this particular fish and chip shop. Needless to say, I no longer eat there. I don’t even walk past it anymore and if I do, I do so with cautious eye.
I spoke to my brother afterwards (he lives in Vancouver) and he was a little shocked, not that I’d witnessed a death but that it wasn’t the first death I’ve witnessed.
A month or so ago, I saw a scooter crash on the street right outside (you guessed it) the fish and chip shop. The dude lost his leg. I heaved in the alleyway, tried to keep it down, but it was no use. I didn’t sleep for three days, either. He got airlifted, and rightly so. His knee was missing, his lower leg somewhere further down the street.
A year ago, I was on a night bus from Oxford Circus and the bus driver ran over a drunk person and just kept driving.
Last summer, my friend Ted was in town from Vancouver. The morning after he arrived we headed out for some breakfast in Greenwich. We made it to the end of our street, and stood next to (yuhuh) this fish and chip shop was a man with blood all over his face.
‘You OK?’ we asked. He was, at least he said he was. No idea what happened to him.
Two days ago, I was on the bus home and we stopped at a bus stop in New Cross because, apparently, there was a criminal sat a few seats in front of me. A police officer came aboard and arrested the guy.
I just wanted to eat the pizza that was in my fridge.
Three days before that, I sat next to a suspicious person on the bus who was wearing one glove. I’ve been told this is a gang signal to let people know they’re carrying a weapon, and will use it without worry of fingerprint identification.
I sat in silence with my headphones on, fully focused.
I’ve never felt fear in London. Witnessing these things is just part and parcel of city living. But that last one - the gloved man on the bus - that one floored me.
That was the first time in London I consciously acknowledged and readied my fight mode. And then it struck me: in the 3 and a half years I’ve been living here, I’ve actually never switched it off.