I remember the day they told me I could go home. I’d been there so long I couldn’t remember how to get there, or what it looked like. When I walk, there’s always the sound of metal in my Mac pocket. It’s a piece of serrated metal. I know it has something to do with home. I looked at the ring on my finger. It has something to do with that as well.
That day was raining so the only place for shelter was the bus stop. You can watch the buses without getting wet. I must have fallen asleep because a man was shining in my face when I opened my eyes. In a loud grin he said, “Are you owed a tax rebate?” I said I couldn’t remember, although I’m not sure if I said it aloud. “Ninety seven percent of oversees visitors are due a tax refund. The great news is the vast majority don’t even know they’re eligible to claim. You’ll find clients everywhere. Hotels, restaurants, bars, shops, building sites. There are no geographical limits and you can be very opportunistic and spontaneous.”
I looked around to see if he was talking to anyone else, but there wasn’t anyone else. “The freedom of being your own boss, the security of an established business, helping other people, and taking home hundreds of pounds each week for just a few hours work. You’ll be responsible for you own taxes.”
“Yes”, I said, nodding slowly. Then I didnt say anything, and he didnt say anything. Then the man handed me a heavy pile of forms and a pamphlet that said ‘Sales Induction Pack’. “Mission Statement, Tax Bands, Sample CIS25. Everything you need to know is in there. Swing by the office when the forms are filled and we’ll chat some about your commission rate”. As he turned his back he told me to stand outside the Brazilian consulate where I’d find lots of clients. “Do you know how to get home? I said. But he was on the bus by then. I put the papers in a Tescos bag and walked in the rain.
To stop my face getting wet, I walked by looking at the ground. The forms had got too heavy for my arms, so I decided to carry them with my head by putting the handles of the plastic bag behind my ears. But that became too heavy, and when I took the bag off my head, I realized I had been walking in circles in an empty car park. I decided the best thing to do would be to sit on the forms, against a wall, while I practiced breathing and blinking in unison.
A few hours later I heard shouts and broken branches from the other side of the wall. I stood on the forms and peeped over and found a worried face staring up at me. “Hey”, said it said in a helium voice. “Help me over, I’m being chased here.”
I said there was no way I could pull him over because I had no arms left.
“Then what are standing on? he said. “Some tax rebate forms and a sample CIS25”.
“Come on mate, throw them down. They’re chasing me with a stun gun here”. I plapped the bag over the wall, and he hoisted himself over.
“Cheers”, he coughed, as he dusted himself down and clicked like a dolphin at a passing cloud. When he stood up he seemed a lot taller than when he was on the
other side of the wall. I didnt know what to say to him, so I said what are you here for at the wall.
“Im in trouble. I got caught pushing fake wigs. It keeps me out of trouble when I don’t get found out… thanks for the forms. Yeh, I used to do that, you know. I stood outside the consulate for a day; I made enough money to pay someone to do it for me. But in the end I had to take him to court, if you know what I mean… hey, fancy another crack at the Brazilian consulate?” he winked.
The Brazilian consulate sounded warm, with soft chairs and hot drinks, like home. But we used the forms to get over the wall, remember? I said. “Well, we’ll improvise,” he clicked.
We spent the next five days standing on the ground floor of a building that was being slowly demolished. On the fifth day, I was awoken by a combination of the familiar sounds of sirens and men shouting, and Morgan’s hand gripping my skull. He was about to administer a surgical scalpel to my head, when five large men burst through the door, shouting Morgan’s name. He quickly leaped off me and vaulted upstairs, where the men followed him with a stun gun. I picked a Tescos bag off the floor and gave one last gag, before wondering out.
He had drawn a black dashed line in permanent marker pen that ran around my hairline and behind my ears, which I only noticed days after in a puddle I was looking at.
There’s a house I sometimes go to watch TV with subtitles. I never see the deaf man inside, and he never hears me coming. I stand in the front garden of his bungalow. One day, Morgan’s face appeared on the TV. A local court had accused Morgan of impersonating a wig vendor, and five counts of unlawful trepanning. Morgan had decided to defend himself and managed to convince the court that although his wigs were found to be fake, all his victims had been authentic, and so his sentence has been diminished. He received one months community service, and a formal caution for hurrying shopping trolleys.
Two months later I had got lost trying to avoid paying a bus fare. I ran through some bushes to the grounds of a private nursing home, where I found Morgan, less animated in crutches and plaster bandages, pointing a leaf blower at the trees. He seemed excited to see. “This community service is the perfect cover”, he shouted over the leaf blower. “No one will suspect me because all the residents are bald anyway”. I left him to his work, and wandered along the perimeter wall of the grounds. Luckily, I found a pile of tax rebate forms at the foot of the wall, so I stood on top of them and hoisted myself over. By the time I got over, it had begun to rain.
Sometimes when it rains on my face I find it hard to tell whether Im crying or not.