“Ouch!”, I cried.
I felt a stabbing pain on my ribs. I quickly opened my eyes to the image of the dark alley. I saw Pete standing right in front of me. What an asshole! I don’t blame people who look the other way but I really hate this sadistic bastard who simply enjoys bothering us.
“Get up! We don’t want any trash on the streets today”, Pete said, arrogantly.
I complied with the order, looking down without producing even the faintest of sound. Any sound or look would always make it worse. He would hit me with the tip of his baton. How hard he hit depended on how bad he felt about himself any given day. It was curious that I felt the strongest, the harder he hit. Each strike would beat his soul beyond any pain I could feel.
Why do some people feel that they are better than others? In his mind, he is a God and I’m an insect. He is here to act on his every whim. The ones beneath him are here to serve him and dispose of as he wishes.
“Yes, keep walking you filthy scum.”
I didn’t look back, turned the corner and kept walking on the sidewalk. I walked a couple of blocks, invisible to the people around. The Lord must have cleared the way in front of me because people changed their trajectory without any clear reason. Oh, yes, just one… me. I preferred it this way. I didn’t care about bumping into anyone or talking to anyone. Why would I want to speak to them? Nobody would understand.
Immersed in my thoughts, I arrived at Joe’s. It was as busy as always. I went to the back and started picking up the trash bags by the door and placed them neatly inside the dumpster. I sat down and waited. George finally came out the door with a good size plate with more food that I could eat.
“A lot of leftovers today. You’re in luck.” He sat on the steps coming out of the backdoor, right in front of me.
I nodded. I liked George. He was one of a handful of people who were nice to me. I know he wanted to know more. But I didn’t want people to know about me. This was my life and I decided that no one would tell me how to live it. He kept looking at me, and I kept looking down and eating. The pain of hunger started to subside and, I guess I slowed down a bit, because he started a conversation. I really didn’t want to speak to anybody; I left everyone alone with their business. So I wasn’t paying too much attention to George, as this was my only meal of the day.
“…good on what they do, and could even get you a job afterward.” A job! What?! I didn’t react externally but started hearing what George was saying. “I mean, I hate to see you like this. You must be hungry all the time. You could get a place to stay and be somewhat safe.”
“So what do you say? You want me to hook you up with this people? You could learn some skills and…”
“I’m educated George”, I interrupted.
He looked at me in disbelief with a strange expression in his face. It was probably the first time he had heard me speak, I think he didn’t expect me to. ”I have a post-graduate degree.” There was a long pause.
“But…you are…what?….why don’t you….”. I knew the conversation would go this way. Why the hell am I not working if I have an education. George, as most people, just cruised through life and followed the instructions. Study something or learn some skill and work. Earn money and spend money. Get what you’re supposed to get and, then you can say you’re happy. Not me.
“Who is happier, the person that earns a lot of money but has great responsibilities, or the one that doesn’t earn any but doesn’t have any responsibilities?” I asked.
“But life is so hard for you!” he replied, clearly very worried about the way I lived my life.
“George, life is hard for everybody. Haven’t you noticed? Everyone has problems. Our minds are really good at worrying and focusing on the smallest deviations from our idea of perfection and our vision of what should be. It is just when your problems are worst that you realize you really didn’t have a problem before.
“Life is hard — and unfair to all.”
George offered me some water as I was finishing my meal. I continued, “Life is about feeling. Someone said: ‘I think, therefore I am’. But I see life differently. I say: ‘I feel, therefore I am’. Wondering about my feelings is proof that I exist. There must be an ‘I’ that does the feeling. That is why any feeling, good and bad, is a reminder that I am, and I value all of them.”
George was listening and analyzing. “What are you going to do in a couple of minutes when I go? You will go up the steps and go on working throughout the day. Ever wonder what I do after you kindly help me put out my hunger? I go to the park, I sit down an immerse myself in nature. I breathe the fresh air, I feel the wind caressing me, my eyes see the beauty of the scenery, I hear the wind brushing the trees and the birds’ songs. It is true I don’t have anything, and yet I feel more than most.”
I could see it in his eyes. He looked at me differently. It wasn’t a sad look anymore — to him, I had become a person again. We shook hands and I started walking towards the park. George stood there for a minute looking and wondering whether it was all going to be OK.
This week’s Indie Ink Challenge came from Debra Elliott, who gave me this prompt: Describe your life as a homeless person. I challenged jamelah with the prompt: Have you ever lived out of your home state? If so, write about the challenges of leaving your family, friends, your favorite paces and lifestyle behind. If you have not lived away from home, tell us where would you live and how you would manage the mentioned challenges. Of course, you can use fiction, non-fiction and go around this topic as you like.