Homeless

The sun sets again and it’s time to find a place to rest. The birds return to their favourite tree, the lizards resume their nooks, wombats fill holes and platypuses dwell in burrows. Most folks go home, but when you’re homeless, where do you go?

The trick is to look like you’re waiting for someone or something. Sleeping at an airport? You’re waiting for a plane. Sleeping at a train station? Waiting for a train. Bus stop? A bus. Park? Then you’re waiting for a mate.

As soon as people start to notice what’s up, they start looking at you. Every situation has a different time limit. Airports are the longest, as long as you’ve got a nice shirt on. Train stations are the shortest. Once your time limit expires, someone bold – looking out for their community – always comes along and utters those dreaded words: “move along, mate.” It’s worse when they say “mate”. They twist the knife just a little bit when they say “mate.”

Tonight it’s off to the train station. The security guard can tell what I’m here for. He wags his finger before I even reach the gate. Next, I try an alley, but a roller door opens at midnight and a truck comes to drop off some goods. I move along again. There’s a cardboard collection depot. It’s got locked gates, but I jump the fence. I set off the motion sensitive floodlights.

I’ve been walking for hours. I’m new to this, so I’m still pretty timid. Every spot that looks appropriate is either too light, too dark, too dangerous, too risky. I’ve walked so far that I’ve reached the suburbs. This is where it really gets risky. If I’m discreet, I might even get an hour or two of undisturbed sleep. If I’m caught, they’ll put up a fight.

People who live in the suburbs buy into the idea that their families will be safe and that no evil exists therein. They’re wrong. The suburbs are where all the evil resides. After setting off who knows how many pet dogs, I settle on a little sliver of shadow that the street lights have cast in a side garden. Just as I shut my eyes, a pair of headlights hover over me. Have I been spotted? No. The car carries on. It must be 3am. I can’t stand the thought of moving along, “mate.” I shut my eyes again.

I’m rudely awoken. A powerful torch blinds me. An angry home-owner hurls profanities at me: something, something “daughter”, something, something “peeping Tom” something, something “I’ll kill you!”

The events of that night worked out for the best. I’ve been able to sleep for three days now in my hospital bed. But they’re going to turn me loose soon. And all my belongings were destroyed by the guy that beat me up. He was just “looking out for his family”, so no charges were laid. I’ve got a record now. But at least I can think clearly now after a bit of food and rest. Let’s see what happens next.

T.

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