Jonathon Hanratty was one of those people that nobody ever noticed. I don’t mean that figuratively, either. Your vision seemed to flow right past him, like a river around a rock, and rejoin itself on the other side. If you weren’t careful you could trip right over him and blame it on a fold in the carpet.  

The first time I saw him he was weaving through a crowd of hungry students, trying not to get tripped over. A fortuitous gap between the trustafarians and the armchair anthropologists allowed him to slip through and he darted over to my till, slammed down his tray – meatballs, rice, banana, coke and a forest fruits yoghurt – and said in this tight, wiry little voice, ‘I would like to pay for my lunch, please.’  

‘Go on then – see if I care,’ I retorted. I do like retorting. It’s a talent of mine. Most days all I get to say to my customers is a string of numbers, and I’m a creative kind of person. ‘Six twenty. But my neck’s on the line here, woodlouse.’ 

He blinked like he’d been freshly extracted from a coal bunker to find that the war has already ended and nobody remembered to tell him. 

‘Your colleagues didn’t even see me,’ he said faintly, handing over his cash with trembling hands. 

The rest of this article is only available to subscribers.

Access our entire archive of 350+ articles from the world's leading writers on Islam.
Only £3.30/month, cancel anytime.


Already subscribed? Log in here.

Not convinced? Read this: why should I subscribe to Critical Muslim?

Elsewhere on Critical Muslim: