A short story from London and Eritrea.
and that was ten years ago. It changed two lives forever, mine and someone much more famous, though her fame was to come later. I remember it vividly; how could I not?
I'd just arrived back in London from a six-month tour of duty in Saudi Arabia and was in need of three things: a bacon sandwich, a beer, and to see some women wearing less than the Saudi norm. Much less, in fact. And of course I knew of a pub that could provide all three, with knobs on. I'm telling you this to dispel any illusion that I'm setting myself up as some kind of holy guy. I'm not. I'm just another engineer who happened to work a miracle, once. So, duly sated in all departments, I'd left the pub and was walking East along Pentonville Road, enjoying the normality of a bright sunny day after the searing furnace of the Middle East. I wasn't consciously thinking of anything in particular, but there was nothing at all wrong with my world. It was good to be back.
was have my agent send my African photo-shoot to Benetton. I was just starting out then but I was like, why not aim high? My dad always said if you don't ask you don't get. We heard nothing of course, but I was doing OK. No big breaks but plenty of steady work. Magazines and a few TV commercials. That was before my accident...
It was my own fault for stepping off the track. Crazy that answering a call of nature can cost you half a leg. I'd been too long away from Eritrea and was only thinking about seeing my family again. Land mines were the last thing on my mind. The rest you know. I'd rather not talk about the worst times.
But I wasn't going to let it beat me. If I was to have half a leg, so be it. I'd wear an athlete's prosthetic, bare titanium and carbon fibre, and wear it proudly, with short skirts and one thigh boot on my good leg. That was my style and I was sticking to it.
And the work kept coming in. Folk don't realise that a lot of modelling work is face, hair, upper body, sometimes just hands. It's not all about the cat-walk.
but if she hadn't been drop-dead gorgeous, and a far cut above the bar girls in every way, nothing would have happened. Something about my overnight flight, the beer, the bright London noontide, her physical perfection, my heightened appreciation of all things non-Saudi, perhaps even the bacon sandwich - all these came together in the moment our eyes met and we both knew, without even looking down, what miracle had taken place.
I panicked. I pushed past her and ran for my life, for my sanity.
The next time I saw her was in a cinema ad for the United Colours of Benetton campaign, on the cat-walk. Of course she's a household name now, a supermodel, and could buy and sell me twenty times over.
about life that day. I'd had lunch with my agent and she had a new offer for me. A shampoo commercial. Prime time, so good money. But that wasn't the best of it. She'd been contacted by none other than Benetton. Someone had found my old photo-shoot and wanted me to audition for a new worldwide campaign they were planning to launch. Of course they didn't know about my accident. OK, it was never going to happen, but it made me feel special to be asked.
After lunch, I was walking up Pentonville Road, near to The Angel, and there was this guy walking towards me, kind of staring. I'm used to that of course, but this was different. He seemed to look deep inside me, almost through me. It should have been scary but wasn't. In fact I've never felt so calm in my life. I suppose he was some kind of faith healer? I don't know. It just felt completely natural to have two good legs again.
And then he ran away!
I don't pretend to understand how it happened. I certainly don't claim to be able to work miracles to order, nor am I any kind of magician. Nothing like it has happened to me or anyone else in my circle, before or since. In fact, I'm very careful who I mention it to. All I know is at that moment I was the instrument or conduit of some power, and no doubt so was she. It has all but destroyed my sanity. I used to joke about this very subject. I'd say, why do faith healers never heal amputees? I notice they still don't, but I hold my peace.
Why did I run? Because I could. I'm running still.