This is a piece I wrote a few days ago. Obviously it’s fictional but it looks at a different side of homelessness that I feel some people don’t take into account. I’m personally quite proud of the character I created considering I have no experience of this very real issue myself. Hope you enjoy and I’d love to know your thoughts.
When I was younger, I could never recognise that I was dreaming. I must have always assumed that losing all my teeth in the back of a speeding car or visiting my late Grandad at Buckingham Palace was an everyday occurrence. My friends always told stories of what they would do upon realising that what was happening to them wasn’t real – ‘lucid dreaming’ I believe is the term. I never practiced it, even after I was told how surreal it was to control a dream with absolutely no consequence, there was a whole procedure to it that seemed too complicated for my liking; sleep was the one thing that I could do perfectly well with minimum effort involved. Plus, I enjoyed the idea of living in a dream world, unaware that what I was experiencing was completely fictional and would dissipate from my memory within seconds of being awake, it often gave me a new perspective of life.
I’m 35 now and an expert at distinguishing between this world and that of the unconscious. This is because the same dream returns to me every single night – I’m sat in a quaint, familiar kitchen at a small round table with a knife and fork in my hand and two beautiful children sat at either side of me. They’re talking but their voices are quiet and faded. I watch these young faced boys chat amiably to one another for what seems like minutes (even though I know that most dreams only last about 7 seconds) when a pleasant smell drifts my way – mint sauce, lamb chops and carrots, the kitchen now a sauna of mouth-watering, steamy flavours yet the kitchen is empty, void of food. What really makes my mouth water is the infinitely more beautiful woman on the other side of the kitchen, her long streaks of curly auburn hair, her hazel eyes and her cute round nose above her full rouged lips. She walks towards me longingly, throwing me a loving yet somewhat lustful look. I don’t know whether to feel content or uncomfortable, there are of course children present. It’s normally at this moment that I find myself laughing, a fuzzy feeling of joy washing over me.
I know that it is a dream because as soon as this fuzz arrives, I am jolted awake by the nameless man whose building entrance I take residence under. He waits in his usual spiritless manner as I grab my sleeping bag, pillow and empty coffee cup and saunter away from his precious establishment (a decaying bookmakers) that I infest every night with my verminous presence. I then stumble over to the empty game store that faces it and set up camp again – at least I’ve kept a routine. I don’t know how he can just shoo me away and go about his rotten ‘business’ whilst I acquaint myself with another patch of rain-sodden concrete just a few metres away.
I know that it is a dream because I haven’t seen those boys or that beautiful, beautiful woman in over a year. I haven’t sat at that table and enjoyed a hot meal with them (or anyone for that matter) in forever, yet I remember every detail of that last meal that we shared together, I haven’t shared a bed, a shower, or a passionate night with the love of my life in what seems an eternity, and the boys whom I once read bed time stories to are probably being tucked in by some stranger who they now call Dad.
I prefer not to focus on the past, I try to live everyday as it comes now, a concept that I took for granted back then, when I was really living. Here, where I am now, where I have been the past year, this isn’t living, this is surviving. I am simply continuing to breathe as I watch the countless people who are living walk past. They say that the grass is always greener on the other side, but it’s said ironically isn’t it? The real meaning behind that saying isn’t that there is someone out there enjoying themselves better than me, it’s that although it seems that way, everyone has their problems and struggles, and we should be grateful for the positives in our lives instead on comparing someone else’s contentment to our own; there is a balance of happiness going on and everyone seems to ignore it. I’ve always lived by that saying, and you’d think that when the streets became my home, things couldn’t get any worse – it truly is rock bottom isn’t it?
I’m alive though aren’t I? I might not be living but surviving is one step above rotting somewhere in a ditch being chewed up by rats.
Besides, I’ve always been a people watcher, observing little snippets of people’s lives has always been a weird pastime of mine. Honestly, I could do it all day, and now I get the chance to! I can be the oddball that I’ve always wanted to be deep down now, some may look down at me like I’m the canned-up, animal derivative, dog food of society, but I am able to judge them as hard as I please and not feel a single shred of concern or bother; besides what else can I do to pass the time? Hold a conversation with them? I see a toothbrush less than I see a twenty pence piece in my coffee cup.
Deep down, I am hurt. In fact, it’s not even deep. All you have to do is look at my overgrown, scraggly mess of a beard or see the sores on my blistered feet to see that my pain is shallow, and that I am a whole world away from what I call happiness.
Life has dealt me a cruel card, and for that I shall never truly forgive Her, but I once heard that yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift, which is why it is called the Present.