A middle-aged figure in denim opens the door to us. There is a rough, buzz-cut angularity to him, as if someone tried to fashion a man out of a block of wood with a chain saw.
‘Shall we have a chat inside for a moment?’ I ask him.
‘Well I’m out now,’ he says. ‘But I’ll sit on the steps if you like.’ He gingerly lowers himself down onto the mosaic tiles. ‘I might not get up again, though. Oof. I want a piss so bad my teeth are floating.’
‘So what’s been happening, Mr Coates.’
He unsnaps the top button of his jeans and shifts uncomfortably.
‘I’ve been passing blood in my piss,’ he says. ‘It’s happened before. Always after sex.’
‘Is your doctor aware?’
‘Oh, yeah. I told her about it four years ago. I’ve had all the tests and dips and whatnot and she’s still not sure. I think I know, though. I had this hernia repair a while ago and I think there’s scar tissue inside. I think when I have rough sex...’ he rocks backwards and forwards on the step with his right arm out in front, a goaty-little mime, something like a galloping jockey, ‘... and all that banging away shakes down a clot or two. And they come out in my piss.’
Frank leans against the balustrade, folds his arms and looks off across the green. With the late afternoon light falling across him like this, he’s the very model of civic forbearance.
‘So why’ve you called us now, Mr Coates?’
‘I can’t piss. I went in the early hours, but only a dribble. And now I’m totally blocked. I think a really big clot must’ve come down and blocked off my pipe.’
Frank looks at me and smiles.
Mr Coates carries on.
‘Not surprised though. I hadn’t had a shag since Christmas and I think I overdid it last night. You know...’
He performs his mime again.
People hurry past in the street.
‘I shouldn’t do that,’ says Mr Coates, grimacing. ‘I might explode. But you get the picture. The other thing I should tell you is if I don’t eat every four hours I can go off.’
‘What do you mean, “go off”? Are you diabetic?’
‘No. Just a high metabolism. But if I don’t have anything to eat I’m liable to collapse.’
‘When did you last eat?’
‘Twelve hours ago.’
‘And why was that?’
The man snorts.
Frank shakes his head.
‘Well,’ says Mr Coates. ‘I had more important things on my mind, didn’t I?’
And he illustrates quite succinctly what they were.