I am not sorry that I hugged you.
You were sitting on your sleeping bag, outside Tesco, crying. People walked past you. No one stopped. No one looked at you.
I leaned down and put my hand on your shoulder.
‘Are you okay?’ It’s not as if I wasn’t aware of the risk, for both of us. But right then, all that mattered was reaching out to you. In the time of Covid we are all linked together by the same narrative.
You looked at me through red-rimmed eyes.
Once, you were a child. Once, you looked out at the world through fresh and hopeful eyes. Where did it all go wrong? Who was it who let you down?
I sat down next to you and folded my arms around you. You cried onto my shoulder. I wanted to tell you everything would be all right. I couldn’t force the lie from my mouth.
The next day I went back to see how you were. But you were not there. I asked another homeless bloke about you.
He shrugged. ‘She died last night, mate. Caught the virus. She’d been ill for weeks; reckoned she caught it from some guy who spat on her.’
I’m scared. I’m asthmatic; Type Two diabetic. But I am not sorry that I hugged you. I am just sorry I didn’t even ask your name. I am sorry, instead of this awful virus we can’t have a plague of kindness.