DJ’s random mooch through the streets of south London is interrupted by an excited female voice, “Desmond! Desmond!”
DJ looks up to see a young woman, certainly no older than her early twenties, dressed in reasonably expensive clothes. She has a certain look about her that DJ has always associated with the sort of middle class, left of centre types who feel that they understand what it is like to grow up on the streets, and feel the related urge to help others overcome problems that they’ve never actually encountered themselves.
The young woman approaches and throws her arms around DJ in a hug before he has a chance to say anything. Then she pulls back and gives him an appraising look.
“Desmond, what are you wearing? Are you going to one of your talks, is that why you’re dressed like that?”
“Lady, I have no idea what you bin smokin but I don’t fink I am the geezer you lookin’ for”
She seems a little shocked and steps back in alarm, looking DJ over closely. “I’m sure I recognise my own fiancee,” She asserts, sounding anything but sure. “Desmond, is this a joke?”
“Seriously, luv, never seen ya before”, DJ pushes past the woman and wanders down the road a small way before stopping and thinking on something. He turns around and heads back to the woman, who is still standing where he left her looking confused and not a little upset.
“Sorry, luv, might have sounded a bit harsh back there, I get the mistaken face thing quite a bit. I’m told we all look alike”, DJ trys a winning smile out on the woman to smooth the tension, he’s been studying Jack but it’s not having quite the same effect.
She smiles weakly.
“Listen, where does your fiancee hang out? He’s lucky, I should say ‘ello and apologise for bein rude to his missus”
[A bit of a thin excuse, but the dice were in DJ’s favour on this occasion]
“Um, well, he does a lot of work at the youth centre over by Mansfield Street,” she seems surprised to have answered at all. “But you really don’t need to trouble yourself.”
“It’s no bovver, luv seriously”, the coming-in-3rd-place smile falters slightly. “Look after yourself ‘aight?”
He leaves the woman, still looking slightly confused and strides confidently down the street. Once out of sight, DJ picks up the pace a little and twists through the backstreets, heading in the direction of Mansfield street. Perhaps it was time to meet this other Desmond.
* * *
Half an hour and a brief stint on a bendy bus (for which he didn’t buy a ticket) later, DJ finds himself standing on the street corner opposite one of Brixton’s youth centres.
After ten minutes or so watching the youth centre and deciding what to do next, DJ sees a number of people, mostly teenagers accompanied by one or two adults, start to leave the building. None of them seem to resemble DJ in the slightest. After a further ten minutes, the place seem to be almost empty, with no movement anywhere save for a single figure moving behind the frosted glass of a room on the first floor.
Resolved to find out what’s going on, DJ strides towards the front door and enters the building.
He takes the wide, circling stairway just inside the door to the first floor where the doors open out immediately into a mid sized hallway with a stage at one end. A lone figure is in the middle of clearing the space after what must have been presentation of some sort. A number of cheap plastic chairs are already stacked over to one side of the hall and the man is in the process of moving the final few rows to clear space for the collection of cheap pool and table-football tables that appear to have been pushed to one side while people sat. As DJ enters the room, the man turns sharply and looks at him with wide, slightly fearful eyes.
The man resembles, almost perfectly, the face that DJ remembers seeing in the mirror before he was taken. His old human face, only a few years older and, perhaps, a few years softer. Dressed in casual clothes yet clearly clean and well kept, the man looks healthy in a way that DJ never really did.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” he says in DJ’s voice. “Are you here to kill me?”
Not having really prepared for this moment, DJ is unsure of exactly what he DOES want from this… thing. “I don’t know”, he slowly replies. “Do you deserve to die? You don’t really exist anyway, not in a meaningful way”. DJ can’t decide if he feels bitterness or pity for the creation in front of him.
“I don’t think I deserve to die,” Desmond replies cautiously, moving to stand behind one of the chairs as he speaks and putting that extra barrier between him and DJ. “I’m getting married in a few months and I’ve been looking forward to it. And I don’t think that I don’t really exist, I mean I think I do exist, at least as much as anyone else. I might be different, but I think, I feel, and I didn’t ask to be what I am.” He hesitates, trying to gauge the effect that his words are having on DJ, “And I’m not responsible for what happened to you.”
“No, you weren’t”, an uncomfortable silence descends on the room as DJ and Desmond stare at each other. “I don’t even know what I’m doing here, man. About the only fing we ‘ave in common is the same face. What did you do to my life?”
“I lived it, I guess. I’ve always known what I was, or at least suspected that something was wrong with me. When I… became you I tried to carry on as normal, but I guess you could say my heart wasn’t in it. It all felt a little bit false. It didn’t take too long before I got myself arrested, just being careless really, or trying too hard maybe. That gave me some time to think, reassess my life, your life… our life? Gave me time to sort out my memories a bit too, put together a bit more about where I came from. It didn’t seem right that I should have to carry on like you did, I wanted to live my own life, and getting shot or arrested wasn’t really what I wanted, so when I got out I decided to try something new. Not a lot of work for a guy with a criminal record and no qualifications, though, so I kinda fell into youth work, and… well, here I am.”
“Well, best of luck to you…I guess”, DJ turns and wanders towards the door, turning back on the way. “Look after them kids, yeah?”
“Sure thing. And, DJ, thanks for… you know, this. I’ll try to stay out of your way.”
DJ nods and walks out of the centre.