He had been sure that he had one sachet of sugar left somewhere in his tattered rucksack. He had managed to grab an entire handful of sachets off an outside table just inside Waterloo station.
That had been a good day.
So far, however, all he had found were crumbs and dust, evidence of which was now under his fingernails and the elation of having found a lukewarm cup of tea quietly peters out at the realisation there would be no sugar.
Looking around the usual cafes, which would offer a warm drink or sandwich now and again, all stand resolutely closed. Life eerily extinguished.
This was turning out to be a bad day.
Holding the lukewarm cup of tea between both hands he notices a lipstick stain from its previous owner. Alex wonders why they would have been in town today. Breaking the rules or one of the emerging Heroes unable to shelter behind four familial walls even if they had wanted to?
Something Alex had dealt with his entire life.
Moved between children’s homes and foster parents Alex was a reluctant nomad until, after turning eighteen, he bid farewell to his carers and decided to go in search of life. He knew it was out there and he knew he was capable of enjoying it rather than just existing.
Alex surveys the familiar but now oh so unfamiliar scene before him.
Usually a bustling hub. Perhaps the heart of this city with its infamous billboard alive whatever time day or night. A century old constant reminder of what life has to offer or should that be what life had to offer?
Today the latest Samsung phone rotates in all of its high-definition shiny glory while an impossibly perfect woman invites you to admire her hair, yours to own with the purchase of the latest L’Oréal shampoo. The perfect life really is that easy!
But today they perform with no audience and their promises fall on deaf ears.
Do people really see these adverts? Do the people scuttling from one destination to another really see anything other than what is on their phone which never leaves their hands? A 20th century appendage. He knows they never see him so this billboard really has no chance.
Putting down his tea Alex takes a really long hard look at the scene before him and the enormity of what has changed. Although not for the first time, he tries to make sense of the situation.
Desertion, isolation, abandonment, remoteness.
All of these words come to mind, although none would have ever before been used to describe where he now stands.
Piccadilly Circus. How ironic!
This scene before him now can only be described as unbelievable, unnerving, even terrifying, something which Alex is struggling to accept.
Alex closes his eyes and listens.
No engines, no impatient car horns, no laughter, no children’s squeals, no voices whose language he does not understand and no music.
Quite simply nothing.
Slowly opening one eye as if hoping to discover the scene he remembers, Alex catches his breath as the feeling of loneliness, from which he had once run, washes over him and starts to drag him down.
A one-way ticket to London promised the world. Wealth, opportunities, hope, freedom even companionship. To return was never going to be an option.
But now the world had turned on its axis.
The world was sick.
‘Stay Home’ was the message.
Feeling suddenly lightheaded Alex realises he now feels more lonely than he has at any point in his lonely life so far and suddenly the weight he has had to learn to bear over his eighteen years suddenly weighs so much more.
He has no home.