The Last Time I Saw Jimmy

Jimmy’s eyes bulged like Marty Feldman’s; perhaps he had some kind of thyroid condition. The skin of his face was pitted and worn, and there were enormous blackheads in his nose. He usually wore an old checked jacket, a grey shirt, and nondescript trousers held up with string; a spotted handkerchief knotted round his neck; and socks and roman sandals on his feet.
I don’t know if Jimmy was his real name. I called him that because Iris did. Iris was the Cypriot woman who ran the corner store in Womerah Street, a blonde with enormous dark eyes which filled with tears at the least provocation. That’s where I first met him - he used to hang around the steps of the shop, chatting to Iris. She liked his company I think, and maybe used to dispense a little charity in his direction as well, although there were other times when she would lose patience and chase him away.
Jimmy never offered any information about himself, and if you asked him a personal question was liable to change abruptly out of his engaging, companionable self into someone both reticent and deeply ashamed; he might even, head down, wounded and sorrowing, turn and walk away. He was not an alcoholic or even a drinker; he would sometimes ask for cigarettes, but never money; and he remains the only street person who ever gave money back to me, as he did one lucky day by the El Alamein fountain, taking a two dollar coin from one of his pockets and pressing it upon me.
I remember him talking about Ford motorcars that day, and this was also the occasion when he delivered a particularly inspired rave, most of which I have unfortunately forgotten, apart from one blazing image, which was that he could see the iridescence of his thoughts turning in the hubs of the wheels of cars passing in the street.
The last time I saw Jimmy was beneath the Coca Cola sign that stands at the top of William Street at the very place where Victoria Street and Darlinghurst Road intersect to make Kings Cross. He was carrying a small cardboard suitcase such as children used to take with them to school, painted all over with cloudy yellow dots. We had not met for a while, and greeted each other with pleasure:
Gidday Dutchie! Hi Jimmy!
At that his face clouded in the familiar sorrowful way; but instead of turning and walking away, he held up one finger to me, like a mime, then ceremoniously took the case and placed it carefully upright against the wall of the building before which we stood. Next, drawing himself up to his full height, with his feet in second position, standing beside his suitcase and indicating it with a graceful theatrical gesture of his hands, he said: My name is Adam.

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