I donít know where it began. I donít know how I came to be in this state. All I know is that I am here.
I just woke up, cold and stiff from sleeping on the ground. There was a piece of cardboard to cut the wind last night but the wind blew it away while I slept. My mind is fogged; beside me is an empty bottle. My clothes reek; I donít know for sure when my last shower was. My hair feels matted; someone stole my brush. Itís hard to keep anything personal around here. Only what I keep in my pockets is safe from being claimed by someone else while my back is turned.
My stomach is growling. I donít remember when my last meal was. It might have been two days ago. Propped up against the brick wall of this building, my mind is becoming more lucid as I sit here. The cold wind bites a little but thatís all right. Itís waking me up.
This isnít a bad way of life. With no expectations and no obligations. I can live like this for a long time. If only it werenít so cold and I wasnít so hungry.
A lady and her kid just walked by. The mother looked at me with disgust. There was no kindness in her eyes. I didnít expect any. She gripped the kidís hand tighter and took a wide berth around me like I might contaminate her. She doesnít realize that not that long ago I was just like her.
Iím not going to cry. I want to cry but Iím not. I feelÖhow can I explain it? My feelings are jumbled, like an orchestra playing all at onceÖout of tune. My mind is thick and my head hurts. I feel regret for disappearing and worrying my family, but I am happy now. Iím where I belong. I donít deserve their love. Iíd only let them down anyway the way my father did me. I understand him better now. I know why he didnít come back either when I was little.
Where did it begin? When did I first realize that walking away was the answer? Maybe it was when I took the first drink. Or possibly it was when I started stashing bottles in the closet and under my clothes in the drawer. I think maybe I really ďleftĒ them the first I got drunk and felt the courage to tell them all off. All the guilt, all the bad feelings just went away when I started drinking. I felt braver, stronger. Drinking gave me the courage to get rid of the anger. But I canít forget their hurt looks. That bothers me. Those used to be my babies, my kids. Now they belong to someone else. Dang it all, this bottleís empty. I donít want to rememberÖI donít want to think.
I left when they tried to take away my booze. They tried to steal the one thing I trust.
Itís time to get up now, time to start another day. Some people call me the bag lady. With this cart by me I can collect clothes that folks throw out at the dump. The others around hereÖlike me they need clothes. Even if theyíre othersí rags, the clothes will keep them warm. Theyíll pay me a quarter or moreÖfor the really good stuff. That buys my drinksÖ
Darn it. The wheelís broke a little. Iíll just push it back to the store and trade it for another one. Nobodyís going to notice if I go when itís busy and take a cart from the parking lot.
I think maybe that Iíll stop at that place where they make hot meals for freeÖto people like me. Funny, I never thought Iíd be one of those peopleÖ.
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I understand the intent, that is, the message, but it seemed stoically indifferent to the plight, the state of the woman. Having spent countless hours with "street people" I know something of their surrender, if you will. Their desperation that is no longer seen, only sensed. The bondage of it all. I appreciate your courage for taking this topic on; but it is my guess that you've not walked in those shoes before, not that you have to in order to portray the life, or lack of life. Or worse, calling that way "life" at all. I grew up in a home similar to this; the only difference was the location. A trusted adult got me drunk when I was six years old. I would either approach this with a different slant or leave it along altogether.