AN: I actually wrote this a few months back for a school project just before I joined Reedsy. Surprisingly I got an award for this, but this is also a kinda throwback to before Reedsy :)
I’ve always liked to be by myself. I have always chosen the comfort of solitude, rather than the chaos of company.
I can’t be alone now, constantly surrounded by people, who just look at me, sadly, then move on. Rarely, very rarely someone will stop and talk. I can’t say I like the talking that much, but I do like the clink of the money.
A common question I am nearly always asked is ‘How did I get here?’. And my answer is always the same. ‘I don’t know. Bad luck, that’s all, just bad luck.’ I smile and they go, clearly not wanting to know more, clearly making up my story for themselves, instead of listening to the real thing.
Day after day.
Week after week.
Month after month.
Conversation after conversation.
Over and over and over.
“How did you end up here?”
“I don’t know. Bad luck, that’s all, just bad luck.” I smile, and turn, expecting them to go, like all the rest.
“You sure, sir? You look like a clever chap, clever enough to stay off the streets. You look kind, and like you would help anyone.” She kneels and takes my hand. The skin difference is startling. They’re the same shade, but while mine is layered with dirt, hers is just one unbroken wave of honey.
“I kind of suppose that is the problem. I’ve helped too many people and they’ve kind of forgotten to help me. It started to go bad, probably about 5 years ago. My bubba- that’s what I call my dad- died. Everyone claimed it was an accident but, I know it wasn’t. But, how are you supposed to tell the court that your only piece of evidence is that your dad only ever owned one belt, the one he was wearing when he was hung by another? The only other person who believed me was my mama, but she’s six feet under, and, it’s probably a good thing. She wouldn’t be able to cope now, with no one to help her.
“I did try, I really did, but nothing worked. I was lost, and there was no way out. Eventually I did get out, but the wrong end. I ended up here, instead of a house with hot food everyday. I think and replay everything, trying to find how I ended up here, trying to work out what I could and should have done differently, and the worst part is I find so much. It just makes me want to give up again, but I don’t. I don’t plan on giving up again, not after last time.”
“What was last time?” She settles herself more comfortably, crossing her legs, back against the wall.
“When my mama died, she had nothing. Everything had gone. See, my bubba had planned on living a long life, thinking that when he died, I would have money and a job of my own, but I was still at uni. So, everything he had went to charity. Unfortunately, not a homeless one. Mama couldn’t cope. Died shortly afterwards, the doctor put it down to heart failure, but I reckon it was sadness as much as anything else.
“Now, I was on my own. Best friend had moved to America, switched numbers and I haven’t seen him since. I didn’t know what to do, so I did nothing. I stayed at home, occasionally leafing through newspapers to see if there were any jobs, and I did apply for a few. Obviously didn’t get any, and that didn’t help my mental health. I was spiralling down at speed, and only resurfaced when the house owner- I was just renting at the time- visited. This made me start, for he never visits. He said he needed me to leave. I had a week. So I packed up and left the next day, with my tent, clothes, some food and a whole load of pictures.
I went to this tent site, planning to spend a couple of weeks there, while I found a new place to live. Didn’t realise it would be so bloody hard. At the end of the two weeks, I was kicked out. They had full bookings. So I went to the woods. Stayed there in my lovely little tent. I loved that tent, I really wish that I still had it. But it’s gone. Set on fire, along with most of my clothes and pictures. Never found out who did it, probably some drunk teenagers out to impress. I only have one picture left, and it never leaves my side. I never want to forget my parents, never.
And then I've been living here for about… two and a half years now. Doesn’t feel like that long. You know, time flies when you’re having fun.” I laughed weakly, and she does too, through her tears.
“I never would have thought that you’ve been through all that if I hadn’t stopped. Most people probably make up a story about drugs and addiction for you, never properly stopping to think. But, I just can’t help but think… never mind.” She started to stand up.
“Go on. I won’t mind. It can’t be worse than what most people think.”
“I just can’t help but think- I’ve never seen such dark eyes with so much life in them.” And then she turned, and was gone. Only then, I realised I was crying.
The days pass by like shadows, waxing and waning like the edges of the moon, drifting by like the endless stream of people I watch.
They hurry by like they're going to accomplish something, because today's the day, I'm gonna do it today. Them with their pretty purses and fingernails, ripped jeans because they're in style, cigarettes dangling from their painted lips.
I watch you watch me, disgust in your eyes, as I take a quiet breathe, letting the condensation drift softly into the air. It's the way you look at me that truly hurts, the way your eyes are all pitiful and coldness. You can't give me money because I'm just gonna buy drugs, you think. You feel sorry for me, but that's it, and somehow that's enough. I've seen enough to not let it get to me.
I watch as you go, like the others.
I watch as the night falls, smothers the earth so you can't hear me break