There’s a sign in front of me saying hungry and homeless.
“How did you come to be hungry and homeless?” a woman asked me.
“Poor girl,” she must’ve been imagining; wanting to say; most probably a Christian; she was certainly giving off a motherly impression of, “There, there.”
I told her I’d lost my job along with my flat but was on a waiting list for a new one. I said there were a couple more weeks for me to get through ‘cause I could tell she was sorry for me and it being a good opportunity to get money. I wanted to make her feel she could make a difference so she’d go home happy; a lot less depressed than the sight of me was obviously making her. Unfortunately all I got was a cup of Starbucks coffee, a toasted cheese sandwich and a phone number.
“If you need someone,” she said. I thought: “For what?”
The truth is a lot simpler; much less dramatic than what I tell most of my mates: I was never kicked out of home, my parents never hit me and I’ve had plenty of chances to go back.
The fact is I’m stuck. At the very suggestion of getting my act together my veins fill up with inertia. I panic, and then tell myself there’s no hurry, that maybe one day.
Afterwards I remember there’s more important things to be thinking about. Like where I’m gonna sleep tonight; where, how, who with, how much, and is there a need for me to be begging for any more money?
It looks like it’s gonna rain soon. I’ll sleep round Steve’s if I can. Unless Tanya and her mates are there again it shouldn’t be a problem. Otherwise it’s the launderette on
Wicker Street if I’m lucky enough for it to be unlocked tonight; and the doorway to Sam’s Café if I’m not. There’s twenty-seven pounds, thirty-eight pence on me. Two half cigarettes left (will more butts need to be gathered before everything gets wet?)
As the sky now rumbles with distant thunder the shoppers around me speed up, eager to be getting back to their warm homes. If I didn’t look such a mess I’d head for the shopping mall, but the security don’t like me in there. Think I’m gonna cause trouble. Harass the customers. Disturb the customers more like. Distract them from the ambience designed to make them feel rich, successful, happy and willing to part with their money. Perhaps I should dress up all nice and wave a flag saying you’re rich, life’s great, you’re great, and then people would be more eager in donating their loose change.
I need to collect some cigarettes for later; though there’s enough cash to treat myself to a new pack: Could do. Why not? Money is for food, drink, drugs and emergencies. A rule I made up last year. It’s how I’ve lasted this long: However, now as dusk sets in I’m starting to feel cold; and also slightly starving in a passive sort of way.
The folded cardboard hungry and homeless sign goes into the pocket of my duffle coat as I pick myself up from the floor. It’s started spitting now so I pull out my small Mickey Mouse umbrella from another pocket which explodes into life at the press of the magic button. I’m not your typical homeless girl. I have a magic Mickey Mouse umbrella.
The rain gets worse as I head to the kebab shop. Outside there’s a guy selling The Big Issue. He’s wearing a green parker with the hood up and is shifting from one foot to the other to keep warm. I don’t know him; or more precisely, haven’t seen him around here before; and he doesn’t recognise me yet.
We ignore each other as I go inside; ask for two kebabs with lots of mayonnaise please. There’s a TV on the wall but nowhere to sit. The news, but I can’t concentrate fully on what’s going on because of feeling tired and a little spaced out. I drink a Dr Pepper and stand, gazing at the TV screen while my two wrapped up kebabs sit on the counter.
It’s pouring with rain when I exit the shop. I offer the Big Issue guy one of my kebabs, hoping to make a new acquaintance but he refuses; and then disappears into the rain with a shout of, “You’re all good, yeah?”
Sitting on the floor up against the wall, under my umbrella I eat the two kebabs. After that I’m getting my cider at a different offie this time. In the rain everyone often appears worn and weathered; which usually works to my advantage ‘cause I look a little more ordinary. Less shit. On entering I for once can sense that to them I’m just a normal customer.
After sketchily making a show of browsing around I treat myself to a packet of Amber Leaf and get a one litre bottle of White Lightening; on impulse adding some M&M’s and bacon flavoured McCoy’s.
I decide against going to Steve’s but the laundrette is open thank God. It’s nice lying down in the dark - I daren’t turn the light on of course because of not wanting to give away my position - behind the row of washing machines with my little picnic. Outside the rain is pelting against the windows. Shadows of swaying trees dance against the wall while I smoke a rollie and briefly think about how lucky I am: the food, the shelter, the cosiness, the independence and that warm feeling inside brought about by the cider…
Although on waking up in the morning I’m being kicked by two old men. I’ve overslept, you see: a mistake on my part. A dishevelled old woman in curlers and a nightgown is in the background, looking on gratefully.
I hear the word, “Scum,” and there’s a moment when I’m spitting on the floor; and then it’s out into the fresh morning bitterness of a new day.