Note: This story was created in 40 minutes in one of our writing sessions. The story is based on the following writing prompt: You are a homeless man that can hear other people’s thoughts.
Pleased to Meet You by Luke Ryan
All I wanted was some heat, some warmth. Three degrees outside and I’m wearing a coat which I found in a clothes bin more than three years ago. I think my trousers are older. Still damp from the morning rain. Fucking rain beating in at an angle. Hard to find a doorway to protect against that. Should have gone around the other side of the block when I woke up but I was already wet. All I want is some warmth. One fucking seat on the tram, keep myself to myself, just want to get warm and dry.
Nobody else can keep themselves to themselves. I can hear what they say. Nobody believes me but I can. Gypsy blood is what barely courses through my veins. Gypsy blood and the knowledge that every person that has passed me today has wished me dead.
They are fucking horrified when somebody dies unnecessarily of course. The man in the local shop, stabbed in the chest during a robbery gone badly. It’s horrific. The family man driving home after a long day work, another vehicle ploughs into his, victim of a drunken driver half asleep at the wheel. Horrific. The climber, whose rope broke, falls to their death in the quarry. Horrific. They are horrified at the senseless nature of these killings and accidents. They wouldn’t wish anyone dead. Except me. Literally everyone today has wished me dead.
It’s always worse when it’s cold and wet. My clothes smell but the newer recycling bins where people can leave unwanted clothing are now better designed to prevent the likes of me getting it open to get some new clothing. Designed to keep out the people who would most benefit from getting something that the normal people no longer deem good enough or trendy enough for them to wear.
I have heard seven people thinking that it would be better for me to be dead this morning. One man actually whispered it to his wife. He didn’t need to because she had already been thinking it. Somebody thought that the transport company should have people going around to force any homeless people off public transport. It should be kept for respectable people she thought before thinking it would be better if I was dead.
It’s not so bad in the summer. I don’t get wished dead so often in the summer. I guess all the normal people are happier, with their nice new summer clothes billowing in the gentle summer breeze and they flutter about the city like wisps of fresh cotton candy, luxuriating in their pristine existence. Until they see me. The most common thought at those times is that the police should round up the homeless, take them to the poorer parts of the city, or get them away from the parks or the river front. Out of sight, out of mind. But at least not dead. Not in the summer.
Autumn and spring are much of a muchness. Generally I hear them thinking about the smell. And then a mix of the homeless should be isolated in some different part of time or the homeless should be killed. It often depends on the weather. The colder and rainier it is, the more likely it is I am wished dead rather than just relocated.
A lot of younger men, when out with friends and drunk at night, think it would be hilarious to urinate on me as I huddle into a doorway. Occasionally they actually say it to their friends. Fortunately the friends tell the guy to cop on and I feel relieved. One time a guy actually pissed on me. It woke me up. He was very drunk by the looks of it. The way he was slouching against the side of the doorway and his poor aim. I growled at him. He said sorry and immediately went away. He actually thought to himself that it was a bad thing to do. He actually felt bad about it and that he hadn’t seen me. Strangely, it felt quite nice that he had thought that as I wiped his urine from my face with my sleeve.
A lot of people think I must be on drugs, or a former addict, or an alcoholic. I’m not or never was addicted to any substance. I have never taken illegal drugs. Anyone who wants to pass comment of the state of drug and alcohol abuse need only gaze into the windows of the bars and clubs in the centre of any big city. I’m not saying there aren’t some homeless people who have been or still are addicts. But you’re just as likely to find somebody desperately scrounging together enough money for the cheapest bottle of liquor possible as you are likely to find somebody dressed to impress with a credit card to match it. A credit card to buy the fancy cocktails and chop up the marching powder.
I went from home owner to homeless because I made a mistake. I married the wrong woman and got talked into taking out a mortgage that we couldn’t manage and working in a job I hated to finance a lifestyle that she wanted while she was fucking somebody I didn’t know and when I lost my job, we lost the house. She took whatever meagre savings we had and fucked off with the kids. We couldn’t even afford a divorce. I still have my wedding ring in my pocket as a reminder. I could sell it but what would that get me, a couple of weeks in a hostel and some proper food. I would feel like I’m flying to close to the Sun. Once you get bogged down by this life, you get used to it. Doesn’t seem so bad.
Occasionally people look at me when I’m rooting through a bin and I hear thoughts such as, ‘poor bastard,’ or ‘Jesus he must be hungry.’ It’s quite rare to hear sympathetic comments, and even in such comments, I’m often referred to as a bastard.
One of the upshots of being able to hear other people’s thoughts is when you see fresh blood on the homeless scene. The new guys who are desperately on the prowl for food, clothing and somewhere warm to kip at night. They see me with my three year old coat, my filthy blanket and four or five sheets of cardboard and I hear them thinking, ‘that guy, he’s got it made.’ Sometimes I hear the drunkards and drug users among the homeless, as they make fleeting returns to consciousness look at me and think who the fuck does he think he is with his half eaten fucking burger and his sleeping bag.
One of those bastards stole the sleeping bag a few months ago. Poor bastard fell asleep inside it with a cigarette lit in his mouth. His head was half inside the sleeping bag and the thing burnt in minutes. The guy had melted sleeping bag burnt onto his skin as well as horrific first degree burns. He died a couple of days later. The fucking sleeping bag was ruined and they are like gold dust.
Do I regret things in my life? For sure but It could be worse. I know what you think and even if you’re not close enough for me to hear, I can have a pretty good guess at what you’re thinking. I know you can’t control it all the time. Society has made us that way. But next time you’re passing don’t be afraid to give me a little nod and maybe surprise me!