He’s a pensive young man, serious even. He’s driven by a need, an itch that can’t be scratched. He’s doing this on impulse, yet he’s not impulsive by nature - he’s normally thoughtful and sanguine.
He stands by a long ribbon of tarmac that stretches into infinity, his uncertainty exacerbated by lines of trees standing like sentinels on either side of the road, cutting out the daylight, hemming him in.
This young man is impoverished. Observe the worn sweatshirt, the dirty snood pulled over his head to ward off the cold and drizzle, the crumpled and faded jeans, the tattered rucksack that contains nothing but a packet of sandwiches and a bottle of water.
His father has been unemployed for years and his mother earns next to nothing, cleaning at the local school. He had a job himself, stacking shelves at the local supermarket but, starving hungry one day, he stole a pork pie and was sacked.
He doesn’t know there are few cars which drive along this road - his last lift ended abruptly here - a busy farmer with cattle to see to. After half an hour, he sees a car approaching. He stands hopefully, legs akimbo, thumb in the air. The car slows and he can see the woman driver looking at him before deciding he’s a vagrant and speeding away. He stands forlorn, wondering why fate plays such tricks - he’s a decent boy, really.
He’s hungry, so he reaches into his rucksack for a sandwich. The rain makes it soggy but he’s grateful for the food. From the pocket of his sweatshirt he withdraws a piece of paper and reads the lumpen handwriting on it, then stuffs it back.
At last a car comes by and draws to a halt.
‘Want a lift?’ says a man with a beard and wearing overalls.
It’s an old Cortina, which was red once but now has dulled to the point it’s almost pink.
‘Where are you headed?’ asks the man.
‘That’s way off my route, but I can drop you in Halifax.’
‘Running away?’ asks the man as he puts the car in gear and it judders away.
‘No, not really. I mean, I can always come back.’
‘Travelling light, aren’t you?’
‘I didn’t want to be weighed down with stuff - I’ve done a fair bit of walking.’
‘How old are you?’
‘Seventeen. I’ll be eighteen in a couple of months.’
‘What’s so special about Dewsbury?’ asks the man.
‘It’s where Helen lives.’
‘We’re going to run away and get married. It’s in the letter.’
He brandishes the piece of paper.
The man laughs, a raucous jackdaw laugh.
‘Married? At your age? What - are you nuts or something?’
‘How long have you known her?’
The man drops him off and drives away, still chortling.
With his last five pounds, our young man boards a bus to Dewsbury and his dream of a better life.