Original literature: Home for the Homeless
Rifling around the bins at the back of a Chinese take-away in the hope of finding a greasy, half-eaten then rapidly discarded portion of chicken and sweet corn slime, with the funky smell of egg white curiously mixed with chemically manufactured polystyrene containers, the tramp, hobo, urban-camper, bum, derelict, transient, drifter – those between jobs and places of residence – was unsuccessful in his search for an evening meal.
Instead he found, to his surprise, a blanket and a pillow. Covered in the stink of homelessness though they were, a rare find like this was worth holding onto. He took it back to the place. It couldn’t be called a home – if it was, he wouldn’t be known as ‘homeless’ – but it had walls, though they were bare and frightening, it had a roof, though it leaked and let through the howling wind that reminded the inhabitants of the bitterness of the world outside, and it had a door and windows, though both were grimy with the sticky substance of an age without cleaning.
Inside the place there were tables and chairs, heaters and blankets – for the fortunate, relatively wealthy few – and there was always a face to be seen beneath the beard, cheap lipstick, lines of suffering and panic dulled into a mild sense of indifference. These faces could not be called family or friends, for that would dredge up memories from a time when caring was not an alien concept, and this would hurt too much, but another appellation didn’t seem to fit so well, so he settled for fellows. Fellow people familiar to the in-betweens of employment and accommodation, to the shame of the sad sense of inhospitality, uncleanliness, unworthiness, and the general mire of life on the fringes of an unappreciative society that didn’t care enough. These faces were generally the only ones that looked his way and didn’t turn their heads in disgust – at the smell, or the sight, or the creeping sense of guilt at shirking a social responsibility. These faces were all he knew now, and all that knew him as Hugh.
There are names behind the faceless mass of homelessness that people of different circumstances see as an ever-increasing never-dealt-with-soon-enough problem of modern society. There are names like Hugh, and Anne, Edward and Linda, James and Rachel. Names like yours and like mine. And there are people behind these names – people that we pass on the street with or without a home or a job, or a shower or something to eat, people that we might have shared a laugh or a life with in another life. Hugh isn’t on drugs, and he leaves the room when the liquor is brought out of the coat pocket of one of his fellows in a brown paper bag, yet you wouldn’t know that, if you never asked. He would never ask for any ‘spare change’, though you always expect him to. He’s too proud for that. What he did want, and I hope he still does, is a life beyond existence. Too much to ask, I suppose.
Read more short stories by James at http://metcalf1992.blogspot.co.uk/