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tramp

Phil Hardwick was a 30 year old college Psychology teacher who had lived comfortably alone since becoming a teacher. He was a gentle man & was well liked by students and teachers alike.

For many years, when he was in town he would see a tramp sprouting off Psychology theories. Phil would always throw a few coins in his had. The tramp would always thank him before continuing his speech. Most people would ignore him. Some would walk past and give him a look of disgust. Some even cursed at him. Nothing stopped the tramp who Phil Phil would see on different street corners on  his trips into the middle of the city.

For some reason, after all these years, Phil decided to have a chat with the tramp one Thursssday after work. They introduced themselves and proceeded to speak Psychology and  were on the same planet. The tramps name was Henry. He was an old looking 45 year old. Their talk became so intense that Phil invited Henry to his home. “We could grab a pizza,” Henry said, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly.” Phil insisted. Henry reluctantly agreed.

They walked to where Phils car was. Henry said, “This is so kind of you.” On the way to Phils, he figured out that Henry was well educated. He was polite, his grammar and diction were perfect. Henry was a genius and a gentleman.

Phil rang and ordered a pizza which they shared. While doing so the found out about each other.. Phils story was pretty straightforward but Henrys story blew Phil away. Henry used to be a Psychology lecturer but fell on hard times. The drink got to him. He got away with it until he was caught drinking in the  staff toilets. He was sacked on the spot without a single reference from  any of the other lecturers  despite his top notch and up to date first class methods, his knowledge and his excellent rapport with students and staff alike. He was unemployable.

Due to the nature of his dismissal Henry wasn’t eligible for redundancy so after 4 weeks he had to vacate his apartment. He was homeless and penniless. He packed what  few clothes he could into a rucksack and took  to living on the streets. He told Phil how he cried himself to sleep up an alleyway on his first night on the streets. Phil choked up. Henry  then told Phil of how he quickly came up with what he calls ‘street lecturing.’ Henry said, “I make enough money for one decent meal a day & a packet of cigarettes for the week.”

Phil asked Henry if he had any plans. Henry said, “No plans but I dream of teaching. I know that it can never happen but dreams  are free and they pass the time.”” Henry also told Phil that he occasionally went to the library and used their computer to keep up to  speed on Psychology trends.

Just prior to  retiring at 2am, Phil said to Henry, “I have a Psychologists meeting to go to tomorrow night. I’d like to invite you. Henry replied, “That’s too kind of you Phil but I couldn’t possibly impose.” Phil replied, “You wouldn’t be imposing. You’d be my guest. I think you’d  have a lot to offer to he others.” Henry reluctantly agreed.

The next morning around 6am, Phil heard Henry in the living room. He got up to find Henry about to head out the door. “Where do you think you’re going?”” asked Phil. Henry replied, “It”s time for me to head into town and make some money.” Phil  replied, “How about you stay for a while? I enjoy your company,” he said almost pleadingly. Henry reluctantly agreed. Phil  said to him “While I’m at work, help yourself to whatever’s here. When your my guest, my house is your house.” As Phil headed to the door to go to work he casually said, “We’ll go out to tea first. My treat.” Henrys’ eyes welled up. What He didn’t know  was that Phil had already formulated a plan for Henry…..but it would take a little time. He started up his  laptop for Henry to use for the day.

Phil arrived home late for work. He startled Henry who had his head buried in the laptop. He had been on it all day, researching. Phil said “We’d better make a move. It’s Friday night & the restaurant will get busy real quick.” Henry said, “Give me a moment and I’ll put some decent clothes on.” He reappeared from his room in clothes that were ragged at best. Phil tactfully said, “I don’t mean to sound offensive Henry but how about I get you a suit of mine? It’s a highbrow affair we’re going to afterwards.” Phil added, “Oh! Grab a quick shower and give that long hair a brush.” Henry said, “Right you are.”

Henry did as Phil suggested and appeared sheepishly from  the bathroom. “Do  I look alright?” Phil said, “You look a million dollars.” Phil was right. The suit was a perfect fit and Henrys long, clean hair and beard gave him a debonair yet bohemian air. They had their meal. Henrys table manners were immaculate. He said to Phil, “What do I tell these strangers what I do?” Phil already had it worked out and said, “Tell them you have a private practise in New York.” Henry replied, “You’ve got this worked out, Phil.” Phil winked.

After their meal they immediately caught a taxi to the Psychologists meeting. As Henry didn’t drink he stuck to orange juice. Phil led him from one group to the other,introducing him to everyone. Henry blew every group of Psychologists out of the water with his knowledge. Meanwhile Phil was making a mental note of who Henry had spoken to.

When they arrived home, Henry was high on adrenaline. “It was great to speak to people on the same planet again,” he said. “Same planet?” exclaimed Phil. “You’re in a different stratosphere Henry. You’re light years ahead of them….& they knew it.” This was the prefect time for Phil to try & push his plan for Henry forward a step. “Henry. I could learn a lot from you. Would you consider staying here for a while?” Henry leaned forward and lit a cigarette. He inhaled deeply then slowly exhaled. As he did so he leaned forward and put his elbows on his knees. He looked piercingly at Phil. Phil felt uneasy. “What are you up to with me, Phil? Tell me please.”

Phil was still feeling uneasy. It was more guilt, actually. He had to tell Henry. Firstly he couldn’t go behind the back of such an intelligent gentleman and secondly he was going to have to let Henry know at some point. Phil then lit a cigarette and pulled his chair  closer to the table with the ashtray. He looked directly at Henry and said, “I’ve just started on getting you a job.” Henry did the same with his cigarette as he did before. He was unphased. He was cynical. “How do you plan to do that Phil?” he calmly asked.

Prior to giving the full answer Phil diverted tried to Henry again and Henry knew it. Phil said, “So would you consider  staying here for a while? Not only for me to learn from you but I get lonely sometimes. Not many people interest me. You’re the most interesting person that  I’ve met….by light years. Please?” Henry could read the genuine sadness in Phils eyes and agreed. Phil jumped up, grabbed Henrys hands and made him do an Irish jig with him. An excited Phil said, “You pay for nothing. We both go shopping on Tuesdays and you grab what you want. They pay me good money Henry.” Henry broke down and had to sit on the couch with his head in his hands. “Don’t be sad, Henry. We’re both happy.” Henry said, “I am happy. I just didn’t know genorosity like yours existed.”

Phil then changed the subject and replied that, as mentioned above, he went to several different Psychology meetings. He wanted to get Henry ‘known’ at each one. Phil would then approach the highest ranking Psychologists and ask them for a character reference. Henry asked, “Why a character reference?” Phil replied, “You’ve always been in private practise and want to go public so the best you can do is character references….from the best.” Phil winked. Henry sat back and said, “For a college teacher, you’re not a bad Psychologist.” Phil was humbled and told Henry so. Henry laughed. “Don’t be humbled by an old drunk.” Phil leaned forward and said, “Henry. You’re a genius. When are you going to realise that?” Henry leaned forward, had a puff and philosophically gazed out of the window and said only half out loud, “When I can share it.”

After a dozen meetings, Phil went to them all alone. People all asked where  Henry was. Phil said he was unwell. He approached the highest ranking Psychologists and explained Henrys mythical dilemma and asked for a character reference. All 12 were more than happy to oblige. Phil asked if they could address them to Henry at Phils address. Nobody asked any questions.

The next month was agony  for Henry. He would check the mail box up to 4 times a day. Phil stayed up late but Henrys mind was running riot with Psychology and the prospect of teaching again. The nights were long but the days were longer. Then the references started coming in. In the space of 5 days, Henry had all 12 character references, complete with letterheads all from the citys top Psychologists.

Henry had been scouring the country online and found 4 positions vacant so he emailed a word  perfect response with 3 references attached to them. He was granted an interview for all 4. They were all in different states so Phil gave him 4 suits for the interviews.

Henrys immaculate diction, presentation and knowledge saw him sail through each interview. When asked why he hadn’t  taught he lied and said he had bipolar but it was now under control and that he knew within himself he was ready to teach. Each university told him he would be notified within 5 days. On returning back at Phils he was exhausted. He casually told Phil about the interviews. He excused himself and went to bed early where he slept for 14 hours.

Henry received 4 letters from the universities. Phil had just arrived home to see 4 pieces of paper on the table and Henry grinning widely. “You’ve got a job, haven’t you?” said Phil. “I’ve got a choice of  4,”” replied Henry. Phil asked which one he would take. Henry told him that he’s take the one closest to where he was. Phil asked why. Henry replied, “So I can be close to my best friend.” Phils eyes welled up Phil asked when he started. “Four weeks,” said Henry. “Right,” said Phil. “We’re going shopping on Saturday.” Henry asked, “What for?” Phil said, “You’ll need some things to get you started.” Henry replied, “I know I’ve said it before but you’re too kind, Phil.”

That Saturday they hit  the town. Phil bought toiletries, an electric razor, hair ties and so forth. They then went to a clothing store and Phil bough Henry 5 suits. “Put them on my bill,” Phil said to the assistant. He turned to Henry and said, “Don’t worry. I’m a regular here.”

When the day came for Henry to leave both men were very quiet. Driving to the train station not a word was spoken. Standing at the station they made small talk and jokes to cover their sadness. Phil handed Henry an envelope. “What’s this?” asked Henry. Phil tried to deflect it and said, “It’s a thank you.” Henry said, “Don’t try to deflect me. What is it?” Phil sheepishly said, “It’s a thousand dollars.” Henry  tried to hand it back but Phil wouldn’t have it. “It’s to help set you up. You can’t start with nothing.”

When the call came and Henrys train arrived the pair went pale. “This is it, the,” said Henry. “Not quite,” replied Phil who handed him his email address.’t want to let go. It was time to board the train. They hugged each other tightly and didn’t want to let go.  Both men were sobbing. Henry boarded the train and deliberately sat at the far side from Phil. He was too upset to see him.

It would be 6 weeks before Phil got an email from Henry. Henry was in his element. He was flying. He kept thanking Phil  for all of his help. Phil had a touch of sadness about all of the years that such a mind was ostracised for having a medically diagnosable disease. All of the nights that he spent  sleeping in alleys. All the abuse he would have tolerated by the ignorant.

Phil then looked at the couch where Phil sat. His apartment looked empty. It never looked empty before…nor did it feel empty but it did. Phil was lonely. All  of the Psychology meetings didn’t mean a thing. He was alone. His job even soon became a drag. There wasn’t a damn thing that he could think of to change it except wait for Henry to visit during term breaks like he said he would. Phil would count the days down on his calender.

When Henry returned for the first of his many visits, Phils house came to life. Phil came to life.

Who would have thought a so-called tramp could change a life?

 

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