He weaved, staggered, and fell.
Lay face down in the mud, silent and still.
It was 8.35pm, dark, very cold. I was close to completing a lap of Roath Park (up round the lake and back, 50 minutes, my post-work stroll); less than a minute away from my front door.
On the other side of the road, a man smoking a cigarette outside his house watched impassively.
A flicker of anguish, a moment's hesitation: what do I do?
I approached the prone figure.
"You all right mate?" I enquired.
He rolled over and tried to sit up; fell down, lopsided. Beamed a great big goofy grin.
"Yeannghuhnnnmm," he said.
"Want a hand up?"
A nod. He grabbed at my outstretched arm; I hauled. He flopped back, giggling.
"What?" I said.
"Frrrrannahaff." He gestured for both hands. I held them out. "Wnnn. Two. Thrrreee... frrrrannahaff."
A two-handed heave got him back on his feet, where he swayed precariously.
"You pissed," I said, "or something else?"
I didn't really need to ask. Up close, he stank of liquor.
"Immallrite," he assured me. "Jussbinnn, yanno, snnabbrrff."
Perhaps early twenties. Ordinary clothes. Ordinary hair. Ordinary face.
"Right," I said. "Where you headed?"
He gathered himself, took a deep breath. "Shhwhichch," he enunicated.
"Whitchurch? You're going in the wrong direction, mate. Whitchurch's not this way."
"Ysssitizzz. Sssthatttway." He flung an arm out in the general direction of Newport Road.
"Okay. Tell you what, let's walk together for a bit, down to the corner where the library is. Yes? Is that all right? Come on then. Can I tell you something? I was walking along behind you just now, and I saw you staggering about all over the place. And I thought, 'that bloke's going to fall over any minute and then go to sleep on the cold wet grass and nobody's going to notice him until the morning by which time he'll have died of hypothermia', and to be honest I didn't think that was a great idea. And then you did fall over - like, you totally fell over, splat, right there in the mud. Yes! So it's like this: I don't know you, but it's now my mission in life to get you away from this park so you don't fall over again onto the grass and die of hypothermia."
He laughed, delighted. "Snnzzzarra bnffffgh!" he said.
Holding hands while we walked seemed to help keep him upright and moving in more or less a straight line. So I held his hand.
"So you had a good day then? I've been at work," I said.
"Oh. How come?"
"Snngggk fnmmnnfff brrgabb ahnnmy plllomm grrnnn," he explained, gesticulating wildly. "Vggg snnrrfff hrrrggn schmmmip. Work! Huh."
"Right. That's no good, eh. But really, you should probably try and avoid getting so pissed that you fall over in parks when it's cold like this. Just a suggestion."
"Hmmm. Sarrra brnnnbrr kagggrrr. Julike Shakessspeare?" he asked.
"I love Shakespeare. Why?"
"Grgnnn fffnn smmnn twff."
"Smnnn pnfnn amnn, bffarrr snnnn studyttt."
He shook his head, rolled his eyes; tutted, comedy-style, at my ignorance.
"Mnamm snnnpple bzznnkit. Astral vibes!"
"Yzzzz. Wheeeeee! Sssnff barp. Whazz yr nnmmm?" he said.
"Weasel. What's yours?"
"Well it's lovely to meet you, Keiran, on this cold, damp February night here on Roath rec."
"Ssfunny, underrrrthetrees, ssrrtfarapppp! Like a tube!" He chuckled.
"Dzz funny, treeees. Heeehee! Whzzzyr nnmmm?"
"Weasel. I just told you that, pay attention. Tell you what Keiran, would you like me to give you a lift home?"
He stopped. Turned to look at me, appalled.
"Arrrafffgnnn! Snggnnff!" He shook his head firmly.
"I can assure you I won't kidnap you, or kill you, or even molest you. I kind of just want you to get home safe and sound. The lying in the mud thing, remember? Getting you away from the park so you don't lie on the wet grass and die of hypothermia and all that? I'd be quite happy to drive you home, just so I'd know you got there okay. Because - and let's be honest here - you are pretty fucked right now. Frankly, I suspect that, if I let go of your hand, you'd fall straight over again. In fact I've never been more certain of anything in my life."
He flapped his spare hand dismissively. "Shnnnffff. Llllbeallrittte."
"Okay. How about I put you on a bus then? There's a bus stop there, see?"
"Nobus. Nobus. Sallllrttte."
We waited for the traffic lights to change. He did a little dance, wobbling alarmingly. I kept a firm hold throughout in case he plunged into the road. Passers-by stared.
"Astral vibes! Snnabbba fmmm knzzpp! Mmmnnmbrrpp schlmm. Bin drinkin frrr two days!"
"Two days? Jeeezus. Come on, let's cross the road."
"Hadmeetingatwrrkk, ysee. Onnnwenzday." He paused. "Uhhhhmmm, shhhhdddnnt rillybeee tellinnn you this."
"You can tell me if you like. I don't care. I'm not going to tell anyone, am I? Who am I going to tell?"
He squinted at me, suspicious.
"Rrrrryou a mmrrrri pmmmm huwww?"
"Rrrrryou a mrrrrrrrrri pmmmmm huwwwwww?"
He smirked. "Iseddd, rrrryou a mrrri pmmm hu?"
"Are you insulting me?"
"Nnnnnoooo! Ishjustthattt mmm dnnna skkrrgg gggrrgggowww. Smawww brrrgh strastronomy pmmartttt."
"I see. Well, it doesn't matter. Hey, there's a Tesco, how about some food?"
"Nnnnnn." He careered into a shopfront and bounced off. "Heehee! Snnnearlywalkdintothat!"
On the corner of Albany Road, I made him stop and sit on the wall outside the ex-church that is now Rainbow Bargains. He leaned backwards to look at the sky, and kept going. Just in time, I grabbed his jacket.
"Whoa there, steady Eddy! You nearly went over then. I'll just sit here with you for a bit if that's okay?"
I slipped an arm behind his back to support him. He slumped into me, head resting on my shoulder, smiling benignly.
"Seeethat?" He pointed at the moon. "Thassa moon."
"Yes," I said.
"Hvvvyoueverrrseen it up close?"
"Well, I've only ever seen it from about this distance, really. Why, did you go there once on an astral vibe?"
"Dnntbesilly. I meannnthru a tellllssspoke. A telespoke."
"I've looked at the moon through a pair of binoculars, but never a telescope," I said. "Do you have a telescope?"
"Nnnnnnuuhh." It was clearly a stupid question. "Ijussss usesssmmmmoneelse's tespeloke."
He pointed again, shaking his head in wonder. "Look. Look!"
"It's very beautiful," I said.
"Iss lvvvvly. Youcnnnnseeallthhhecraterssssanevrythnnng with a teskelope." He sighed.
We sat on the wall and gazed at the heavens for a while, his head pressed against mine, his arm flopped over my shoulder. Like moonstruck lovers. My arm ached - he was getting heavier and heavier, and his balance could still not be trusted - and my bum was getting cold. People walking past shot us nervous glances.
"Can I put you in a taxi?" I asked eventually. "I don't mind paying for it."
"It's just that, now you're away from the park, I'm a bit worried you'll fall in the road and get run over."
"Yrrrrllynicettmeeee. But immmarite. Look!"
And he leapt up from the wall and did a little dance. "Astral vibe! Yeeeee! Ssfkkin bubbssnnkkff! Isssthamoon!"
"Hmm. Okay. But how are you going to get home?"
"Llllget home. Jussswalk, ssssokay."
I looked around, hoping in vain a policeman might appear to guide him the five long miles back to Whitchurch, or at least keep him safe until he was sober.
"You promise me you'll get home all right?"
"Illlget home allrite. Prrrrmmizzz. Snnot fffrrst tmm idunnit."
He lurched off up Albany Road, then reeled back.
"Dunnfuggetttolookatta moon. Ssjuss upthere look. Sssslovely."
"Okay. It is, I will."
He shook my hand, patted my shoulder, shook my hand, and gave me a hug. Took two paces back, tried to focus on my face, leaned in unsteadily, and shook my hand.
"Bye Keiran," I said.
"Bye, uhmmmm." He nodded thoughtfully. Waggled a finger. "SsseeyouonnnMars."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
When I got home I discovered Astral Vibes is a band and my jacket was covered in mud.