Six

Six

I wish I would die.

Five years ago the thought wouldn’t have crossed my mind. Not even four, or three, or two. Not even one year ago. But now I can’t wait to be out of my misery.

How is it possible that a year ago I was living across the square at the top of the most luxurious hotel in town. Now I can still see the light from the window of the room I once occupied. I can detect movement inside if I try hard enough. I hunker down in the cold corner of the square for the night. Hoping the security detail from the hotel won’t come to harass me and all those other unfortunates I used to mindlessly toss a coin or two whenever I strolled by with not a single care in the world except for what color of tie I should wear to the get-together to which I had been invited.

I shiver uncontrollably. The weather forecast had been bleak. Unseasonable cold expected for the next couple of weeks. I had seen it looking through the front glass window at an electronic shop downtown. Before the shop’s security detail came out to ask me politely to move along.

I wish I would die.

I have tried a couple of times. Once I almost succeeded. I don’t understand why the state is concerned enough to save me from an attempted suicide but not concerned enough about where I would get my next meal or a place to sleep for the night. I saw the white light. I moved towards it as the blood drained from the gash in my arms I had made with the broken bottle of the cheap hooch I had bought from some shady individual at the neighborhood park. But it was the bright hospital light overhead as some intern closed the wounds in my arms that brought me back to the reality of my sorry existence. A trip to the hospital’s psychiatric section where the doctor was more than eager to declare me competent once it was realized I had no health insurance saw me outside the hospital as soon as I could walk on my own. They should have let me die.

I wish I would die.

The wind lifted the corners of my ragged overcoat. Crept up and grabbed hold of what was left of my withered form. I shivered again. If I was a believer I would have thought the devil was a one inch sore on my left shoulder: it itched like a “mutha-fu***r”.  I only believed in myself. I could do anything I wanted. I could have anything I wanted. I believed in myself.  Until I lost everything. The local RedCross rep gave me a cream for it. Maybe I am not using it properly. All the while she was explaining how to apply it, I was busy looking at her smooth light skin, her lovely face and beautiful teeth. She reminded me of someone else. A girl I had met by chance in a bank. She won’t be coming again for another month. In my previous life, we probably wouldn’t have met, but if we had, I would have had her hanging on my every word while treating her to all the best things the town had to offer. But that was another life in the distant past. I ignored the pity or compassion I saw in her eyes. She kept me company in my head while I built castles in my dreams. That kept the cold at bay for several nights. But after a week or so her face faded into the mist of vague shapes that drifted across my mind every time I close my eyes. I tried to will her back. But I failed.

I wish I would die.

I hear the sound of the refuse truck in the far distance. I opened my eyes. Just enough time to beat it to the back of the hotel where the leftovers of the day would be waiting for disposal. But I couldn’t feel the hunger. I couldn’t even feel my stomach. I didn’t move. The truck trundled past. How much time had passed? Maybe 10 or 15 minutes.

I had gambled everything away. Everything. Everything. I didn’t even own the cloth on my back. They are castoffs. My only possession is my briefs,  and I couldn’t get anyone to pay me 5 cents even if I wanted to sell it.

I looked down at my feet. I can see why they felt so cold. New holes in the old over-sized shoes. The only protection they offered was for the soles of my feet – I might as well have been wearing a pair of slippers.

Time to take a walk round the square. Pretend not to be homeless. Just another shopper looking in closed shop windows. But the only thing taking up space in my pocket is a lottery ticket. Well. It was that or a pack of smokes. It wasn’t much of a choice.

The dapper chap coming the opposite way noticeably sidestepped as we came abreast of each other: he could have been me 10 months ago. I ceased to wince a long time ago. The shame and embarrassment long disappeared into a dark abyss from which I could no longer call them forth.

I wish I would die.

There is very little human traffic at this time of the night. Though it wasn’t that late really. I was king of all I surveyed – as long as I looked but not touched. The journey felt short tonight. I am almost doubling back now, but there is one more detour to make. The small corner shop which wasn’t necessarily on the corner. The mom and pop shop that sold all the little things one could want in a hurry: a pack of cigarettes, a pack of gum, bars of chocolate, newspapers and magazine: you get the idea. It was closed and dim inside the shop but there was always more than enough light reflected from the street to see the winning numbers  displayed on the inner-side of the glass front doors. Tonight those numbers looked vaguely familiar. Could it be? I must have stood there for several minutes. I fingered the stiff piece of paper in my pocket but didn’t bring it out. I tried to remember where the numbers were printed on the paper. I ran my fingers over it as if it was a piece of some braille document. In my mind I tried to remember the numbers. The wind howled down the side street while I stood still like a mannequin. All of a sudden I was hungry, tired, sad and happy at the same time. I felt faint. I was almost sure of it. Those numbers starring back at me were the same ones I had played early that morning. I was back! I could already see myself in that room at the top of the hotel in the square. A couple of pretty young things at my beck and call. I would ask for the manager to come up for a chat – just because I could. I don’t like caviar but would order it anyway. Along with the biggest, oldest bottle of Champagne from their underground cellar: a place I had been privileged enough to visit when I was still an honored guest. Suits from the most exclusive tailors in town. I was really back! With that all-or-nothing ticket in my pocket, by this time tomorrow, I could do no wrong! I looked over my shoulders up and down the street before bringing it out – I couldn’t afford to be mugged at this critical point – but there was not a single soul within shouting distance. I straightened out the little piece of paper and went through the numbers one by one. My heart beating wildly as each one matched the one on the glass window in front of me. Except the last digit! It couldn’t be! I was sure I had played a nine, but there on my ticket was a six. I turned it over and it became a nine, but holding the ticket the right-way up, it was a six. i must have checked it at least 20 times, but the six on my ticket and the nine in the window refused to change. The vista of fine food and wine and girls disappeared just as rapidly as I had constructed them in my mind. Replaced by the dank dark lonely street with the wind carrying the little scraps of paper past doorways and behind rubbish bins.

I wish I would die.

29/12/2013 (15:30pm – 18:20pm)

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