Thanatos in Thanet

You watch the seagulls tear the bags open and tug the detritus along the street; showers of rubbish a treasure trove for angry beaks and the wind picking up the empty containers. Down on the high street an old man has fallen off a bench where someone died just two weeks ago and lies comatose on the pavement, a bag split open; rubbish dumped.

Tattooed legs stamp round and past him and a smirking cunt drinking coffee shrugs behind his shades when I ask if he’s called an ambulance. I squat down beside the hirsute form; breath ragged and teeth long gone. A crowd gathers; a lad in an England shirt who lies down beside him on the street to try and coax out what happened — has he been drinking? – a young mother with her chubby, concerned child who smiles weakly at me from behind her skirts.

The café behind us continues serving its teas and coffees while the customers watch us, like aliens landing. An elderly woman with a low-cut dress chats with her friends, unaware that a breast has fallen out of her top and the wrinkly, tanned flesh and tired nipple point down like an arrow at the unfolding death on the pavement before her.

Blue lights flash in slow motion and the tired, wry faces of the ambulance crew arrive; oxygen masks and questions repeated. His eyes dilate and breathing slows. A tea towel is folded thin beneath his head. Overhead, the birds shriek in circles, fighting for a chip dropped, stale potato shredded in a frenzy of self-interest.; calling till the crowd disperses.

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