This morning I went to Brighton, where I had an appointment to meet someone at 9.00. I arrived ridiculously early and wandered aimlessly for half an hour. It was like being in a zombie movie. The streets were deserted, but I could sense the presence of other people. Occasionally I would turn a corner and see someone in the distance staggering home from a club. There were also a few homeless people, shivering in the cold, damp, autumn air.
I crossed the road and saw that I was near Waterstone's. The shop wouldn't be open for at least two hours, so I decided to have a peek. Seeing the windows, which were full of celebrity biographies and children's annuals, I realised how glad I was to be out of bookselling, particularly Waterstone's.
I carried on walking, cutting through one of Brighton's many side streets. The only people I saw were a stunningly beautiful girl in a flowing, boho chic outfit and a gaunt, raddled-looking woman wearing a filthy tracksuit. The age gap between the two women was probably negligible, but the second woman looked 20 years older, thanks to a combination of substance abuse and sleeping rough.
I passed a scrunched-up piece of exercise paper, lying on the top of a low wall. I opened it and saw the words 'I HATE MY DAD' next to a crude image of a body with a bloody knife stuck in it.
A transexual cycled past wearing a short skirt and fishnet tights. He had a thick, black, bushy beard and I wondered why he'd decided to keep the facial hair. It was an odd look, but at least it was striking. It's hard to make anyone in Brighton bat an eyelid these days, but I'm sure that he managed to turn a few heads.
I passed a shop window and looked inside to see what they were selling. A really boring-looking man kept staring at me, so I decided to look away. As I turned my head, he turned his and pretended not to look at me, but as I tentatively turned my head back towards the window I could see that he was doing the same thing. Why couldn't he just piss off and mind his own business? I don't know why but I instinctively felt a deep antagonism towards him.
Then I realised the horrible truth.
I was looking at my own reflection.