About 6 years ago I was running late into work on the other side of Liverpool. I thought nothing of spending £20 on a taxi. It was my money to waste. Swirling around my head was millions of self-created problems I had developed in my mind on my drive into work.
I can’t recall the taxi driver’s name but I felt as though he was meant to pick me up that day. Noticing my soured face and frantically moving nails as I punched in emails and messages, he looked at me through the mirror. I put down my phone as we made small talk. A few minutes later the subject and tone changed.
“It might not seem like much but doing these taxis has saved my life.”
He went on to tell me about how he lost everything, his wife, home, and children to his drug of choice. Alcohol. Before I could offer any condolence for his family or congratulations on being sober, he began to tell me another story. One which has stuck with me all these years.
There is a well-known pub for those who live near north Liverpool. The steps before the pub a man was often there, asking for small change or food. From what I remember of him, his frame was small, clad in all black or perhaps navy. His hair was shaggy and the deep black was pepper with grey that framed sallow, sunken skin. When the taxi driver asked me if I knew him I replied I did, but not personally. What I did know was he had recently passed away.
“I went to school with him, bright lad. Knew he was going to do well.”
It was a start, of course, I was intrigued by. How did someone so bright and full of ambition find himself begging for change? Cocaine. For the purposes of putting a name to a story, we shall name him Alan. Alan had been raised in a quite ‘well-to-do’ family. They weren’t the richest but they didn’t struggle. This was his platform and after many successes in education, Alan started his own business. Growth in the business saw him leave for America. It would be his start and end. For a while Alan thrived, his business was going strong. It was around this time he was introduced to cocaine. What did it matter? It was his money to waste. He could afford the luxury. Until money became harder to come by and a once booming livelihood had left him broke. The decision for him to come back to the UK was made for him when his mother suddenly died. Broke and alone Alan found himself inside an addiction that he could not control. When he died, he left behind a girlfriend and a memory for many who lived in the area.
“Not many people really knew him or his story. Can happen to anyone you know, becoming homeless.”
Those words have never left me.
A brief taxi journey I took 6 years ago completely changed my outlook. Being self-absorbed is easy, you can never be hurt. Once you think about a stranger’s life and what that could mean for them, it’s harder to sleep without thinking ‘what could I do to help?’ This is the inspiration for a new story I want to tell.
We all appreciate the beauty of a rose but forget about its thorns, nothing is what it seems.