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Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
Story of a woman living on the street.
Alleys by livelylinda
 Category:  Commentary and Philosophy Fiction
  Posted: April 14, 2012      Views: 259

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She sighed, with one of those intensely deep sighs that seemed to release years of burdens all in one breath. Tentatively, she turned the handle, uttering a quick prayer. She completed the turn and there was water.

Leigh was 60 years old and her home had been the streets and alleys of New York City for the past twenty years. Her eyes had once been a sparkling blue like sunlight mirrored on the ocean, but now, a dull grey from harsh living circumstances, near exhaustion and sadness. Those eyes were now filled with tears of relief as she watched the clear water, viable for drinking and washing, flowing into a puddle on the ground and then down the drain.

Leigh finally had found her new home after an exhausting search through the alleys of Manhattan. She had searched for a shelter from the elements, a location with more amenities like less rats and bums, and near a good restaurant where the garbage would be tastier; even a scrap of medium rare filet mignon out of the garbage was better than none. She wanted to find a new home in a corner of an alley that was clean and didn't stink but then realized what a contradiction that was! She wanted to be near Central Park where she could escape her squalid life for a little while. She considered herself a higher class homeless person than the others living on the street and in alleys.
Leigh wanted to live out her remaining years in relative comfort. . .considering everything. She shook her head slowly, saying, "How to find happiness in the gutter; should write a book about that. . .and I
once used to complain about having to mow the lawn"! She chuckled at her thoughts, a sarcastic chuckle, but none-the-less, a bit of humor to ease her plight.

Leigh had grown up in a struggling middle-class family, vowing to climb to a higher station in life. She had a taste of the wealthy lifestyles of some of her high school classmates, and she wanted it. She had met her husband, Dennis, in college. He had the same background as she and they shared the same ambitions. Soon, they were financially able to afford the better things in life. They had a son, Dennis, Jr. and a daughter, Lindsey, two years later.
They married shortly after graduation; a relationship perhaps strong on partnership but weak on love. Dennis began his own business and Leigh went on
to get an MBA.

After 20 years, the bubble burst; Dennis made a few too many bad investments and lost his business. They had been living the good life for so long, they didn't know how to downsize their lifestyle, nor did they want to. Leigh intensified stress on Dennis to make more and more money, but he was a broken man. Dennis stuck a 38 into his right ear one evening while home alone, and pulled the trigger. Leigh had been working late that night, as usual and arrived home to find his lifeless body along with brain and blood matter, stuck to the wall behind him. Their teenage children arrived home from a school dance, shortly after their mother. They found her staring at her husband's body, barely breathing and unresponsive. Dennis, Jr. had to make the 911 call. Leigh was taken by ambulance to "Willow Tree Meadows", the psychiatric hospital for the wealthy. The patients called it simply, "Weeping Willows".

Leigh lived at "Weeping Willows" for the next two years, most of it in a catatonic state. She wandered off the grounds one day and soon found herself on the streets of New York City with nowhere to live and no money. Dennis, Jr. and Lindsey had gone to live with their paternal grandparents. Jr. graduated from high school and joined the Navy. He never knew what happened to his mother and sister. Lindsey drowned herself in a drug addicts' fog, working the street corners late at night, welcoming in sailors and flyboys. She was dead of an overdose by age twenty. And, Leigh found a new home in a lean-to in an alley with running water and a few personal items to keep her relatively comfortable.

Leigh had time now to reminisce and realize that while she was pursuing a career, spending long hours in order to climb the corporate ladder, she never bonded with her children. She never really got to know them, nor they, her. She was saddened by this mistake and its consequences. She wondered if maybe she had put less pressure on Dennis to make more money, that maybe he would be alive today, but greed had driven her. She hadn't ever been there for him, either. She began to think that her parents' middleclass morals and family values may have deserved some respect, after all.

Leigh spent one night in her new surroundings, sleeping on the ground in her sleeping bag. She was thankful for the tin roofed, 4'X10' lean-to, feeling a bit more protected. But, she was way too old to be sleeping on the ground and woke up with stiff joints. She turned on her water, washed her face and hands, and decided to go shopping. Shopping in her income bracket meant walking along sidewalks in front of brownstones and looking through each wire garbage basket. She would find edible food, clothes, etc. She was always amazed, and thankful, at the perfectly good items she would usually find while shopping these containers. If this were a really good day, she would sleep much better tonight.

Leigh began her walk, pushing her shopping cart ahead of her. She stopped at every basket, examining items of clothing for size and color, discarding those not to her liking. She looked like any female shopper at Macy's.

It was her lucky day to shop. Leigh found three discarded sofa cushions to make her bed and the plastic bag they had been in would make a moisture barrier between the cement and cushions. She found left over sausage and a half sandwich untouched, for a nice lunch. Her dinner would be left-overs from the restaurant at the other end of the block where she had been befriended by a dish washer.

For the next few months, Leigh shopped until she had acquired bits of comfort and was prepared for winter.

One blizzardly night in January, when the temperature dipped to 22 degrees below zero, Leigh died in her sleep, along with her memories and regrets, freezing to death.

No one missed her. No tears were shed. She was not mourned.

Sometimes, we weep for what we have sown.




Recognized

Author Notes
A story not based on any particular one person, but a mixture of people I have met. Thanks to Snapyviv for "My Tambourine".
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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