I sat patiently, cross legged in my usual spot. The cold from the pavement crept slowly through my dirty, denim jeans. My khaki jacket was a blanket that wrapped around my tired body, in a pathetic attempt to keep me warm. The lines on my face could tell a thousand stories from my past and the hollowness in my eyes revealed no mysteries to those pacing passers-by.
I was invisible. I felt worthless.
All I could hear was the chatter of the office workers walking into the building I sit outside of, the screaming of school kids walking to school, the smell of car fumes and the stench of other homeless people trying to keep warm. I felt the stares of people walking past judging me.
“You’re making our streets disgusting,” a man whispered with a look of disdain.
I sat there looking at my feet trying to be as small as possible so no one would notice me.
“I would hate to be like that when I’m older,” the school children sniggered.
I sat there crying into my hands not letting people see my face or the tears running down my dirt stained cheeks. The next thing I felt was the warm hand of another person.
“Hey, are you ok?”
I put my head up expecting to be abused. A woman had approached me, her face kind and with her hand out she had a friendly, familiar smile on her face.
I did not reply. My head bowed in shame.
Let me tell you a bit about myself. It has been 4 weeks and I am lost. I mean, I haven’t always been lost. At one stage I was very important, until…..until….. I had to leave, because of what happened……
The night drew in and I arranged my cardboard bed for the night. My stomach as empty as my soul. I was locked in my torturous thoughts and felt desperate to escape. My mind and the cold, damp and clammy night allowed me yet again a minimal night of sleep, until another day began.
The familiar footsteps and familiar smile once again, “Do you want a coffee?” she asked kindly.
My eyes this time locked onto hers for just seconds, but it felt like a life time. But I could not speak. That was my problem. I could not open up about what had happened. She reluctantly walked away. Her familiar perfume engulfed the air as she reluctantly left me once again.
I reached around my neck to loosen my hoodie and my dog tags loosened. The only souvenir for my harrowing experiences in the army. I needed to fight once again. I clambered to my feet and went in search of my life and my wife… once again.