Backwards into the Future

“Il est malade, cette homme.”

I heard the words of a tourist to his partner on the other side of the quiet London street I was walking down in Summer.  They stopped and stared as I went by.

“Il est malade.”

I stopped and smoked a roll-up on a bench in a quiet cemetery along the way, and wondered if I really was ‘malade’?  Ill?

Unusual, certainly, as a man on the corner of the street after I’d left the cemetery, noticed.

“That’s something you don’t see every day!  Do you mind if I film you?  Just a one-second shot.  I’m making a series.”

He filmed me on his cell phone as I walked on with an embarrassed wave. Outside a supermarket I came across an unkempt guy with red hair counting a handful of coins.  I turned down his request to donate some more.

“You’ve got OCD,” he said.  “I had that.”

“OCD?”  I stopped, intrigued.

“Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  You can’t stop doing something.  I had therapy.  It went.”

I repeated the name of the condition to try to remember it.  Was that my malady?

“You should read the Koran,” he said, rather surprisingly.  “About the djinns.”

I told him I had read the Koran, and if I was possessed by a jinni (spirit), I believed it was a benign one.

“It’s going to walk you to the death!” he roared, as I heeled it swiftly on my way, guided by a force beyond my control.

For a year now I have been unable to walk forwards, yet I can walk backwards with ease and dexterity without putting any effort into it, and I can give no logical reason why.  Being the only backwards walking guy in town makes me noticeable, and I’ve found these films people have taken with their cell phones in the street –




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Michael Dickinson can be contacted at michaelyabanji@gmail.com.

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