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August 2019


Heaven is smoking and walking two very stupid corgis around southern Spitalfields on a bright Monday morning. Ken's knee complains, but then it always does. It still feels good to be out in the open air, unrecognized, or, unbothered.

A flock of burkas flutter past and Ken doesn't even pause, thought he admiringly takes note. It's not unusual to see people who came from all over the world on this side of London, bringing their varied customs and accents. Though, Ken is keenly aware he does have an accent. Just because it's English doesn't mean it's not an accent. There is a whole world full of accents, in fact.

Polonius whines, which means he has to take a poo. Glorious, Ken thinks, and not with an inkling of irony. He enjoys everyday life, the humdrum. It has always energized him, but now, with his twilit years budding, it is doubly so. Something about the minutiae of life: flowers in bloom, the way Crumpet paddles his little feet when he dreams of chasing rabbits, his wife's hair in the mornings, a good book -- these things keep him revived, alive. Which is why he so enjoys his meanderings through Spitalfields on certain mornings. 

He lets the dog poo, bags it, and is binning it when he notices them. Tourists. Definitely lost, bent over a map.

There's a man with a scruffy, striking jawline, another sinuous in such a way that makes Ken ache to be that flexible.

And then there is a third, suddenly, with enormous, beautiful dark eyes looking up at him. He has half a wish to put on a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream simply to cast this young fellow in the role of Puck. 

"Hi," the third says.

"Hi," Ken says, a little guarded because you never know with strangers. 

"Shoma!" the scruffy man scolds.

The other two walk over. 

"I was just going to ask him for help," Puck -- er, Shoma -- says. 

"Sorry to bother you," the scruffy man says. 

They each have wildly disparate accents. One is Spanish, Ken is sure, but with Shoma he is not certain. There's a softness around the pronunciation of English that intrigues him.

"It's no bother," Ken says. "What are you looking for?"

Since they're not fans -- and not that Ken's not grateful, it's just he prefers being left alone with his own thoughts -- he feels relief. And more inclined to help. 

"The Jack the Ripper Museum," Shoma's face lights up.

The scruffy one pinches his nose in despair.

"I don't know, the Tower of London has loads of history. Gory, grisley stuff."

Shoma nods.

"I told you," the scruffy one says. 

And the other one . . . has a decidedly swan-like visage and is cocking his head at Ken. It should be wonderful for a man to look like a swan, if he isn't being so disconcerting. 

"Where is the Tower of London?" Shoma asks.

"Nearby. You can walk there."

"Show us on the map?"

Ken draws a route for them and that seems to be the end of it. The three men walk off in the direction drawn on the map. Polonius and Crumpet have been astonishingly good and Ken needs another fag, when Shoma returns. 

"Can you take our picture?"

He points to the Gherkin, that undulating glass dildo of London, glittering in the sunlight. 

"Uhm, sure," Ken says, roping the dogs' leashes around his wrist so they won't escape. 

There is some adjusting, the three men shuffling to and fro. They put their arms around another. 

"Smile," Ken says. 

The pictures taken, Shoma and his companions come for his phone. 

"I know you," disconcerting swan man says. 

Ken freezes. Well, fuck. 

He expects them to bring up his work with Shakespeare. Everyone does. 

The swan man places his fingers on his face.

"You were the detective with a mustache."

Ken blinks, then laughs. The man is making a mustache with his fingers. 

"That movie was fun," swan man says. 

"Thank you," Ken replies.

They part ways without anyone asking for autographs or selfies. Later, at home, Ken thinks that odd, but perhaps the men are simply respectful. 

And he hopes they made it to the Tower of London, at least for little Shoma's sake.