Commentary and Philosophy Fiction posted November 13, 2015

This work has reached the exceptional level
Today Riches - Tomorrow Nothing

Don't ignore me

by doggymad

Do not, I beg you, avert your eyes as you scurry past, I cannot harm you. You will not catch any disease from my poverty. I am as clean as is possible given the life I lead.

A man can get used to many things, sleeping rough, going hungry and even the fear of being mugged. After a while one can overcome the revulsion of rummaging in dustbins for scraps. What never fades is the loneliness, the need for human company, a touch, a hug or even a smile. In this twilight world softness does not exist. It is a cruel bleak existence. Only the hardest souls survive.

It has been five years since I slept in a fresh clean bed, had a hot bath and the luxury of three good meals a day. Funny how fast a person can slide down from the top of that great career ladder and land in the gutter. I no longer feel the shame; it is a luxury I cannot afford.

My days are full of nothingness, a busy sort of blank. I know each and every inch of these dreary streets. Queuing up at the shelters for breakfast starts early. Many days the food runs out just as I reach the counter. The remainder of my day is spent trudging through the crowds, head bent, searching for coins and cigarette butts.

Cheap wine dulls the passing hours, but not always. On a lucky day, I can cadge enough money to buy a few stale bread rolls and a tin or two of cheap hooch. At night, I curl up in my threadbare sleeping bag, and pray for survival. It is not the humans that I fear. It is the rats that crawl over my inert body, seeking food that I do not possess.

When first you live on the streets, you never feel warm, even on the warmest nights. Your clothes are too flimsy and your body too tired and starved to keep you heated. But eventually you adapt, you no longer notice the seasons come and go, you don't feel the rain seeping into your bones and frost and snow no longer pierce your very core.

It wasn't always like this you know. There was a time when my life was good, maybe too good. I was like you my friend; I shuddered at the sight of a tramp on the sidewalk. I wondered what sort of weak willed, cowardly drop-out could chose to lead such a sordid life. I saw them as weak, dishonest scroungers. Now I know better.

I was a bank manager, at one time. The head honcho - that was me. Flash car, designer suits, bijou bachelor pad and a trophy lady friend. Business lunches were a daily event, movie premieres and glitzy parties filled each night. Cocaine was the new recreational drug. A snort or two brightened up any event. But it did nothing for the mornings.

The odd sniff became a nightly ritual, champagne flowed freely and life took on a rosy hue. Then the slide began. At first it was gradual; you know the sort of thing, misplaced files, missed or nearly missed deadlines. Before long, the white powder was more of a necessity that a novelty.

My once loyal clients began to drift away, preferring to do business with some snappy junior with ambition and drive. Suddenly, or so it seemed, there was too much month left at the end of my money. The bills started rolling in. No longer were they the dollar bills, they were the nasty sort of bills that I sent to defaulting clients. They all read the same, either pay up or we will be taking legal action.

For about a year, I juggled credit cards, fiddled client accounts, and exaggerated expenses, but eventually it caught up with me. First to go was the job, I was fired. Due to my substance abuse issues, the bank went easy on me. They dropped the fraud charges. The apartment quickly followed. Gone were the Armani suits and the sporty automobile.

I ended up in a dingy bedsit in one of the poorest areas of the city. I still drank, but it was more likely to be cooking sherry or cider than champagne. Every spare penny I had was spent on anything that would give me a high. But, even this lifestyle couldn't last.

On a cold October morning, I left my bedsit for the last time. With $20 in my pocket and just the clothes on my back, I stumbled down the street and into the gloom. Without the benefit of my elaborate health care plan, I endured my detox programme under a bridge in a cardboard box.

My life has been destroyed, or if I was to be honest, I destroyed my life. My friend, before you walk by, look at me carefully. You could be me!

Story of the Month contest entry


We are all just a slip away from this life. My brother died five years ago from his addiction to alcohol.
It is a very short swift step from having all to having nothing
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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