‘Vagrant: one who has no established residence and wanders idly from place to place without lawful or visible means of support.’
Can you remember the last time you had a shower? Or a hot meal? Or somewhere warm to stay the night? Or is this all you know now? Just some cold corner on the street with only a tattered, thin blanket to keep you warm, along with the clothes on your back, of course.
People go about their daily lives all around you, walking past you as if you’re not even there, as if you don’t even exist. You’re invisible to them, or at least they try to pretend that you’re invisible. Sometimes you catch their gaze but their quick to avert it. The adults continue as if they hadn’t even seen you, some teenagers will awkwardly play with their phones…perhaps they’re pretending to text someone back or see what’s going on within the News Feed of Facebook. Anything to not look at you.
At least the little kids are honest. You considered having children before your life took a turn for the worse. Everything amuses or interests them. They question everything. They question their parents about you. Who else does that nowadays?
“Mummy, why is that person sat there?”
“But won’t they get cold?”
“What do they eat?”
“What…what does home-less mean?”
“Can I give them some money?”
The answer to that question is always no.
No. They could spend it badly, people assume as they cast a look in your direction. They think you’re not looking, but it’s hard to miss that curl of their upper lip and the grimace as they finally take in how terrible your state is.
Why provide you with the means that could give you a warmer blanket? Or some nice food?
Because it could – could – go on drugs or alcohol.
Because people always assume the worse about people like you.
Not everyone like you got into the situation you’re in because of bad life choices. But society is so cynical, so quick to jump to conclusions and to judge their fellow human beings. What happened to empathy and sympathy?
You can never tell the liars from the truth tellers. Those who deserve the help and those who got themselves into this kind of mess in the first place. You can’t blame them completely for not wanting to help. Not only couldn’t you tell who really would spend money on drugs and alcohol, but you also couldn’t tell who really needed to money against the ones that didn’t at all. You didn’t know who were the frauds and shams.
No wonder the world is so distrustful.
But you weren’t asking for money, were you? A single hot meal would do, it didn’t even have to be a meal. It could also just be a cup of coffee, or tea, or hot chocolate. Just something…something warm against the cold of the winter. That had to be one of the hardest things to battle again.
No matter what you did, it would seep into your clothes, penetrating the thin layers of the blanket so easily, no matter how many times you stretched it so it wrapped around your shivering body. The icy temperatures would ache your bones and on occasions, you could swear that you heard them creak and squeak with the pressure of your moving an arm or a leg into a more comfortable position.
You would look like an alcoholic, by the end of the day. The tip of your nose red and blood had risen to the surface of the skin on your cheeks with the amount of times they have been slapped by the temperamental wind. Your nose is running and, whilst at first it’s irritating to keep doing, the amount of times you’re forced to wipe at it with the end of your sleeve is just a robotic and routine habit.
Your fingers feel frozen, like they’re practically blocks of ice. So stiff that they hurt when you finally move them to pull the blanket up a little further around you or to brush some hair from your face. Everything’s just so painful. Winter is most definitely the worse. At least in the summer you’re warm…the winter it feels…it feels like nothing you do will keep you warm.
It’s such a blessing when the odd person does hand you a cup of something hot. You’re not too picky anymore when it comes to food or drink. Anything, just as long as it keeps the gnawing ache from your stomach. Occasionally it’s alright…you can deal with it…it’s something you’ve learned to ignore and become immune to. Some days it’s different. Some days you just want to curl up and try to sleep so you can be away from the pain that an empty stomach causes.
But sometimes even then there’s no escaping it. Sometimes the hunger is persistent, too persistent. It keeps you awake at night, making you toss and turn and fidget with discomfort. The terrible thing is though is that as soon as you get a chance to eat, you can’t eat to your heart’s content because if you do…your stomach – shrunken from the little food you do get – would force you to expel the food back up again. The richness of the flavours it all too much for your weather-beaten and abused body.
It would be sonice to go back to how things were before. Where you had a house and a job and clean clothes and an actual shower. Because that’s the thing, isn’t it? People assumed you go here through bad life choices…but that wasn’t it, was it? And no one will ever know either because they don’t bother asking.
Who wants to stop and talk to a tramp all day?
Wait, not tramp. You hate that word. You prefer…you prefer…
No one wants to know about your problems because they have issues of their own. They’re all such hypocrites too, that’s what you hate the most. People and companies and the government say that they’ll try to help people like you. But they don’t. When do you ever see help around here? There aren’t any soup kitchens around here, and if there are, where the hell are they? Somewhere inaccessible and therefore, if they’re so inaccessible, what’s the point in having them in the first place!
You want your old job back!
You want your old house back!
You just want your life back, for heaven’s sake.
The moment you’re in a business suit, you’re well respected. People will make eye-contact and give friendly smiles when you pass them on the street. They’ll offer to help you if you’ve fallen or if you’re hurt and injured.
As soon as your attire has changed to an old and tattered sports shirt, dirtied grey jogging bottoms and running trainers that hold the beginnings of holes within them…it’s a different story. Those articles of clothing, paired off with scruff and straggling facial hair…then that’s it. You’re a disgusting piece of scum that doesn’t deserve any help whatsoever.
Often you’ve considered becoming the stereotypical vagrant that everyone seems to believe you are. Whatever money you do get in the worn, plastic container before you, you consider spending on alcohol. That should numb the cold a lot better than anything you already have, right?
Or drugs. They’re a lot more expensive, sure, but at least you can be…outside yourself for a little while. That’ll come in helpful during the winter. Just a few hours, being immune to what the world can throw at you. Be immune to the thugs that you occasionally have to deal with. Or the nasty drunks.
Just anything, you plead. Just anything to make this nightmare easier.
Though sometimes you consider just asking for something to sped things along and end the nightmare all together.