- In: My Social Conscious
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i am a nobody.
No wait; i’m not saying that to garner sympathy, i really am a nobody.
The definition of a nobody (to me, anyway), is someone who only a few people know. Someone who has no real accomplishments to their name; Nothing that is lasting or pleasing or problem solving or life-saving or… well, you get the picture. Or do you?
A nobody isn’t a nothing. i’m not saying i don’t have a purpose and a reason to be sharing the same air you breathe, i AM saying even if my 15 minutes of fame came, it would be an embarrassing fiasco. That kind of fame i hope to live without.
No, a nobody is someone you could pass every day and wish you didn’t have to. A nobody is someone you don’t really see. A nobody is me.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
i sit in the doorway of your office, huddled against the cold. i don’t look at you, i am ashamed.
Your voice filters to my turned ears, “I know. I wish they could do something about these people.” And the meagre warmth escaping from the building wafts, teasingly taunting me before it stops abruptly as the door ‘whumps’ closed. Clicking heels tell me it will open again soon. i wait.
Tears form in my eyes. i don’t want to live like this. i am smart. i can work. i’m just not clean. i have nowhere to live that is clean. i have no bathroom. i have no sink. No tub or shower.
Ahhhh, to shower again and feel the grit rinsed off my body. To pull a comb through my hair. To brush my teeth.
“Come along, let’s get you moving,” a kindly voice reaches me. “Time to move along. Here, have this.” As the kind-guard hands me his lunch. He helps me to my feet. i can barely look at him, and thank him as i shuffle my feet in unmatched shoes, one too big, the other pinching my toes, neither with laces, and only folded newspapers to keep my feet from the frozen ground, the holes in the soles feeling like the holes in my own soul.
“Lord,” i ask, as i look up at the beginnings of a cloudless icy day, “Why?” i tug the tattered winter coat i pulled from the bin behind the second-hand clothing store last month, tighter around my thin frame. My stomach aches, and i remember the sandwich.
Opening it, i am bitterly sad to find that it’s egg. i am allergic to eggs. Spotting a person in similar circumstances, i shuffle over and offer him the sandwich that he accepts gratefully, and we are off. Each to fill our day and find a warm place to rest our weary bodies.
The churches used to fill that need. i remember, growing up, Mom always made sure we helped out those less fortunate than we were. We used to take clothes to the goodwill regularly. We volunteered at the soup kitchens, serving food to those in need. We helped in fundraising for mission trips. Mom died and we were sent to an orphanage. (Dad died in a car crash when my sister was three. i was four.)
Life was horrid in the orphanage. We were lucky, because we were not Catholic, we were sent to the Town orphanage, which meant far less supervision and, after two months, we hatched a plan to get out and make our way in the world.
i sat down on a bench and let the sun warm my back. It felt good. i went back to my memories, bitter though they were.
We gathered what little we had, nothing of any value, and left. It wasn’t guarded like the Catholic orphanages were; it was said they did unspeakable things behind those walls.
We went downtown, to where mom had worked, hard, as a housekeeper in a fine hotel. We asked to see the manager who remembered us well as we had visited often when mom was alive, but sadly, he couldn’t offer us jobs.
“I’m sorry girls. You’re just too young. Wait a few years. Come back when you’re sixteen.”
Sixteen! That was two years away for me! We couldn’t stay in the orphanage for two years. i looked at my sister. She was only thirteen. We had to find work. We had to find a place to stay. We took a bus, using some of the precious few pennies we had, to go back to our old neighbourhood, to see if any of our friends could help.
They were sympathetic, but times were tough and money was tight. They couldn’t put us up for long. We understood. We didn’t want to be a burden, “If we could just stay a few nights?”
In this manner, we managed to fend for ourselves for almost a year, until one day, my sister met a man who offered to let her live with him. She insisted i be allowed to come too. That was our descent into hell.
At first it was wonderful! A warm bed. Clean sheets. LOTS of food. He even bought us clothes. Dresses mostly. Evening dresses. With fancy shoes. He taught us how to behave. How to act around adults. How to seem sexy.
The first time was absolute misery. For both of us. We cried together for hours after we were allowed to go to our room. We were scared. Even the orphanage was preferable to this hell.
Over time we closed our minds. We went through the motions. We were careful not to displease, we had learned that led to a far more revolting punishment.
Soon we were very popular ladies. Of The Evening. We were sick with fear and revulsion. i can still hear her voice. “I can’t do this anymore.” She jumped. Her body was never recovered because she was never reported missing.
Who cares about a nobody?
i blink against the sadness threatening to overtake me. That period in our lives ruined the chances for us to ever work as maids in the hotels.
The noon clock blew and again the hunger pains grip me. i look around. A bin on the corner looks promising and i shuffle over, sifting through, finding a half-eaten cheese sandwich and an apple core with a bit of the brown bits still showing some white. i gleefully head to a corner to enjoy, slowly, my feast. A city owned fountain provides liquid. Now i need a bathroom.
Heading down a smelly, vile alley; i hover, hidden partially behind a large bin and hope that the newspaper in my pocket will suffice to clean my backside. Again, longing for a real bathroom.
i clean my mess up and toss it in the bin, humiliated as i spot two young boys watching me. i turn and walk away. It’s time to find a place for the night. The underpasses provide the most protection from the wind and bitter cold, but not from the cutthroats and sporting men; a single woman would never go there. The city shelters were safe, but bug infested and noisy, you never really got comfortable, only on the coldest nights would i head in there.
A favourite spot had been ripped away from me only a month ago. Development and an unsympathetic guard had forced me to give up my home of the past three years. Now i wandered aimlessly, wondering why i haven’t got my sister’s strength to end it all.
i spot a perfect place. A tree, with a cradling branch, thick enough to easily cocoon me for the night. i climb up and test it’s condition. i snuggle in. This will do admirably. “Thank you Lord,” i whisper as i descend to gather branches and newspaper blankets.
i note there’s a building at the other side of the park. Venturing in, i find the sinks clean and the toilets in working order. Quickly i strip, unmindful of the cold. Uncaring if anyone should entre. i run the water. Hot! i scrub every inch of my body, using the scraps from the undershirt i wore as a cloth. The water ran dark and muddy when i released the drain, but i felt so much better! My hair, while not combed, at least was clean. My skin glowed red from the rough scrubbing it endured. My mouth felt so much cleaner! “Thank you Lord,” i again whispered.
It was so hard to pull those filthy clothes back on, but my shivering forced the issue. Feeling like i’d won the lottery, i gathered my branches and papers and ascended the tree again, stuffing it all into the space, descending again to look through the garbage bins around the park, finding several tidbits in each and deciding that i would hang around here as long as it remained safe.
Several years later, i am still here. i speak to the regulars in the park, who only know me as ‘the crazy, but harmless lady who lives in the tree’. i hope i haven’t descended into crazy. Lost. Dirty. Hungry. Scared. Lonely. But i pray, not crazy.
One of these regulars brings me a sandwich every day. Fresh. She brought egg-salad once. My tearful refusal made sure she never again came with egg-salad. She invited me to church. i even went, once. i couldn’t bear the stares. It was too humiliating. Still, she comes and i’m grateful. One full meal a day is more than i can eat. i often save half the sandwich for supper.
She brought me a comb and some soap. She even brought me a toothbrush and paste! My little home is getting quite comfortable, with the sleeping bag and pillow she provided. i think i like the Bible best though. She brought it when she found out i could read. i spend a lot of my early hours reading. When it’s light enough.
She still invites me back to church. Maybe one day, when i have the courage to face those stares.
Don’t pass them by… ONE person can make a difference…
Comience como usted desean continuar;
Begin as you intend to continue…