Meeting Francis O’Keefe

As my ex-girlfriend would no doubt agree, I have a strange habit of attracting weirdos.

Whether I’m on the train, in the supermarket or just walking down the street crazy people seem to be drawn to me like a magnet.

Last weekend I’m back in Luton. It’s Sunday and i’m in a pub sitting with my Dad and a friend of the family. A man walks over and asks to sit down.

The man, an old Glaswegian fella, looks harmless enough and settles down with a pint of Guinness.

While I’m looking at a pretty brunette in the corner playing the games machine, the man mistakenly thinks that I’m trying to make eye contact with him.

Just looking at him has sealed my fate. He has made a friend.

The white-haired man stands up and thrusts a hand in my direction. I take it and shake it.

“I have never met a black man,” he slurs.

I start to worry, he’s clerly drunk… and by the sound of it he’s probably a bit prejudice.

“I have never met a white man, or a green man or a yellow man,” he adds.

Okay, so he’s not racist, just a little drunk. I think about what he says. In it’s own way it’s profound – if a little cliched.

“I’m Francis O’Keefe – will you walk with me?” At that point I begin to have doubts about his sanity.

“I guess so,” I reply. I wish I could move seats because I want to laugh – and if you laugh at a wild-eyed drunk.

“I believe in two things,” Francis continues. “Love and care. Will you walk with me brother because If not you can just fuck off.”

I look over at my Dad and he’s laughing… I drink the rest of my drink swiftly signalling that I think it’s time to go.

As I get up to leave Francis stops me. And thrusts his hand out again…

“I’m Francis, I have never met a black man,” he says again.

He clearly has no recogniton of the converstaion we have had little more than five minutes ago.

I have to get out or I’ll burst. Laughing into my hand I quickly put me coat on – as I leave, Francis waves warmly.

As the pub door swings closed I have another quick look in at my new friend.

He’s ambling towards the games machine with his hand thrust out in front of him.