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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
A homeless man works on upkeep.

Submitted: July 18, 2015

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 18, 2015



He had a few different spots that he liked to use. A staff bathroom at the hotel on 5th street; the old deserted factory on Caldwell. It was important to him that wherever he went that he go carry-on undisturbed. People were nosy - he knew what he was doing was perfectly innocent yet if someone stumbled upon him in the act; they always assumed by default that he was up to no good. It usually only took five minutes or less, a quick in, a quick out. He didn’t like to be hasty else he’d miss a spot.


One of his backup spots was a light post at the old baseball field. It was nice because at night, it was virtually deserted - far enough away from the residential area that he didn’t have anyone getting wise. The noise of his Remington was lost even to open windows on hot summer nights. He would also occasionally sleep here as well; the dugouts were comfortable and sheltered him from the rain. 


He hadn’t always been homeless. His former life felt like a dream, surrealistic and distant - something he could never quite grasp but something that was accessible and never out of reach. Snippets of memories floated to him on occasion; he would hear a child’s laughter and think of his daughter, he would catch a whiff of perfume on a busy street that would remind him of his wife. These were the good memories that filled his heart with happiness and gave him warm shivers down his spine. Just when he thought he’d lost the ability to feel - a rogue memory could send tears of joy streaming down his weary face. He would remind himself that he must never forget them. The problem for _______ was that these memories of joy were always chased by others that were rife with sorrow, fear and anger - the bad ones he tried so desperately to block.


The last time the bad memories got to him, he was sleeping in an alley near Hedgerow and Mismer. The dream started innocently, he was home with his wife and daughter - getting ready to start the barbecue for supper. Echoes of giggles, tousling of hair as his daughter brought the hamburger patties to the deck. His wife humming as she cut up cucumbers for the salad. A knock at the front door. Screaming. The screaming transcended his dream into real life and he was awoken by a fellow vagabond shaking him back into reality. He gasped for air and shook violently as he took in his surroundings. He was safe. For now.


Food was rarely an issue for ______. Between the soup kitchen downtown and the copious amounts of perfectly good food that the local grocery and restaurants liked to throw away, he rarely went hungry. Tonight’s meal consisted of cold pizza (the works?) as well as a bruised apple. His thirst was quenched by an expired juice box he’d been holding onto for about a week now. He’d lost his water bottle several days earlier when his carabiner had caught on chain link fence and tore off his backpack, taking the aluminum bottle with it. He went back to find it once he realized it was gone, but to no avail. 


Now that he was satiated, his next quest was to clean up. It had been several weeks since he’d had a shower, but he had been maintaining with “sink baths” and washing his clothes in the same sinks as well. One aspect of the vagabond lifestyle that didn’t appeal to him was the lack of cleanliness. He had tolerances and could only let things get so bad before they needed to be rectified. He finally settled on the washroom at the public library in the city centre.


One of the things that he found made him stand apart from the rest of his homeless counterparts was the fact that he tried his damnedest to assure that he didn’t look homeless. This afforded him a kind of cover; he could slip in and out of normal society with ease, no glances and no questions. His motto was “I may be homeless, but I won’t look it”. It served him well in his experience. 


The library was quiet this evening; most were likely out enjoying the warm September weather or watching the Foxes take the university to victory against the Warhammers. He’d played on a varsity team once in his former life, he’d really enjoyed it while it lasted. He walked past the front desk and straight to the elevators to head up to the fourth floor (History). Once there, he was pleased to see that it was even more deserted than the lobby. 


The bathroom was meant for single occupancy - he slipped inside and locked the door and got started. He noticed as we went to wash that the library was using new hand soap of a cherry-almond variety which agreed with him. He chuckled at the thought of smelling like a pastry but wasn’t out to impress anyone. He took about fifteen minutes washing himself and then another ten cleaning his other pair of clothes in the sink. Once they were wrung dry, he placed them back in his backpack and attended to his face, he was saving the best for last.


He pulled the shaver out of the leather case with the cord attached. The cord was coiled and springy, and happily bounced as he plugged it into the receptacle adjacent and below the sink. He removed the champagne coloured metal cover from the top of the razor and gave it a good smack on the inside of the sink to dislodge any stubble. Salt and pepper bits of hair slid down the side of the sink to the drain like powdery snow tumbling down a hill. He replaced the cover with a click and turned it on.


Shaving was one of the small pleasures ________ allowed himself in this vagabond lifestyle and he enjoyed every moment of it. He enjoyed the ritual, the hum and warmth of the shaver against his skin, the feeling of cleanliness it gave him. It reconnected him with his masculinity and reminded him he was a man. It made him feel new. It took him away from his current situation and back into the escapism of normalcy. He savoured every moment of it.


The shaver came alive with a click of the switch and hummed to life. Warm shivers went down _______’s spine as the bouncy metal head of the shaver connected with his neck. He felt the buzz and the warmth of the device and he moved it up and down, starting from left and continuing to the right. He uncovered his proper self in waves as the stubble went away. A feeling of elation swept over him which unexpectedly gave way to sorrow. His eyes welled up with tears and he began to sob quietly as he put the shaver down and clutched both sides of the sink and leaned over it.


This continued for a few minutes as he let the tears come and let pain out. It was relieving and had been hiding from him. He let it come in waves unabated. After several minutes he rose and looked at his tear soaked face in the mirror. His eyes, now reddened and teary looked back at him with pain and acknowledgement. He knew in that moment that it was time to stop running and to deal with what had happened.


© Copyright 2018 Matt Lemieux. All rights reserved.

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