“Is this today’s newspaper?” he asks, picking up my Metro from the seat beside me.
A young boy, 14-15 years, baseballcap, trainers, asks me politely.
“Is it yours?” he asks.
“Yes, but you’re welcome to read it.” Kids reading the newspaper, good thing, stimulate it.
“Oh, I’m sorry about that.” He gave me back the paper.
“No go on, no problem!” I smiled at him.
He took it, and started reading.
“They won man !” he said a few seconds later.
It took me a second but – football.
Arsenal won their Champions Leagues game yesterday.
“He scored the penalty” he said.
“Oh great ! That’s great !” I told him, I hadn’t seen the game. “So who are they playing against next then ?”
He didn’t know yet. “They made it to the final now.”
“Oh, how cool !” I said.
“Yeah!” he was proud.
After a short silence “I’m late for college. This train was delayed”.
“Where is your college ?” I asked him.
“Selhurst” he said, which was only about 5 minutes from where we were.
He read on in the sport section.
“Are you from Germany?” he asked me suddenly.
“No, I am from Holland.” I said. “Are you going to watch the World Championships ?”
“Yes I am going to watch a game. England – Trinidad.”
“In Germany ?”
“Yes” he said.
“Wow! Are you from Trinidad?”
“No, I support England. But my parents are from Jamaica”.
The train approached the last station before Selhurst. And he started searching in his bag.
“Oh no, I lost it!” he said.
“My college money, I need it to get in today”.
“You have to pay to get into your college every day ?” I asked him surprised.
“No only sometimes, when we have special classes. We have an engineering class today.”
“How much does it cost?”
“What are you studying?”
“Electrical engineering, in Selhurst”
He looked lost.
“You are not bullshitting me, are you ?” I said to him.
“No, I am not” he said.
I was in doubt. Every day I meet beggars in London, one having an even better story than the other. On the underground stations there are posters saying that you shouldn’t give them money, but in stead should support projects like The Big Issue. But this was just a kid. And I didn’t believe he was tricking me.
I gave him 2 pound.
He looked at me in some kind of disbelief.
“Thank you very much” he said with a quiet voice.
I was waiting for him to stand up and go, now that he had his money.
But he remained on his seat, until the train arrived in Selhurst.
He stood up and held out his hand. I shook it.
“Thank you very much”.
He wasn’t bullshitting me.
Sometimes you just have to listen without prejudice.