The news lately seems to be full of the plight of the homeless and various addictions. Those of us with a reasonable standard of living might wonder how people can end up in such dire straights. Perhaps it’s easier than we think.
It didn’t start off that way. Everyone enjoys a drink, don’t they? A bottle of wine with a meal in a restaurant, a drink on a Friday night to celebrate the start of the weekend, and perhaps one or six at a party or night out.
But never on a Monday, apart from Christmas, joining Auntie Aggie in a drop of sweet sherry, or on holiday where for two weeks every night was a Saturday.
Seeing young kids paralytic on a couple of ciders was enough to put anyone off. It was one thing to get a bit merry, but long before the drunk and incapable stage kicked in I was on coffee or water and taking the cab home. A couple of hours sleep soon had me back to normal without even a hangover.
So what was the trigger? Perhaps the particularly bad day at work, winter blues, trains cancelled and finally arriving home after a twelve-hour day, exhausted, hungry and miserable, to be met with a note left by my flat-mate:
‘Moving in with Grant. Sorry for the short notice. I’ll try and sort out my share of the rent by next month but lot of expenses to get his place habitable. Will pick up the rest of my stuff on Thursday. Sure you’ll find someone else to share easily. Bye and thanks.’
There’s gratitude for you. I’d only taken on this place as Jen had wanted to share and promised she’d go halves on the rent and all the bills. At first it was fine, then the excuses ‘Bit short this week. I’ll settle up with the gas bill after payday.’
Perhaps it was just as well I’d be at work when she came for her belongings, otherwise I’d be tempted to give her a piece of my mind. The priority was to find someone to replace her or it would be goodbye to the holiday I’d intended booking.
Too tired to cook I wandered into the kitchen to make some toast. Not a slice of bread or drop of milk was left. Apart from a couple of packets past their sell-by date even the cupboards were bare. She had taken everything edible. Damn, damn, damn. A solitary can of coke mocked me and I wondered if she had emptied the drinks cabinet too. In the living room I was surprised to see the best part of a bottle of vodka left, until I remembered neither she nor Grant drank it. Well I did! And who cared if it was Tuesday?
I overslept making me late for work. My worries made me careless and the day ended with my boss giving me a rollicking. Stopping at the supermarket on the way home I stocked up with the necessities, including a bottle of vodka to replace the one with only a few drops left. My advert for a flat mate brought plenty of responses but after several meetings I began to despair. All the applicants were weird, non-stop party animals or merely looking for an address to be able to claim benefits. Where were all the normal, employed people looking for a quiet home?
Weeks passed and my savings diminished as the end of the month rolled around and I tried to cover the rent and bills from my single salary. I started making excuses to avoid nights out with friends, knowing the cost and the cab fares would add to the negative impact on my finances. I cut back on the shopping, especially the fresh meat, fish and vegetables. What was the point if I was only cooking for myself? Another economy was bargain-basement wine instead of vodka, but as it didn’t last so long I ended up buying several bottles.
‘Having a party?’ asked the check-out girl, the first time she saw my loaded trolley.
‘Not exactly,’ I replied, coming up with the first excuse which came to mind. ‘I’m doing a cooking class with Mediterranean recipes so I’m stocking up.’
‘That sounds fun,’ she said. ‘When is it? I’d love to come.’
‘It’s only a few friends,’ I gabbled hastily. ‘Sorry, must dash.’
Now she would remember me. Time to start researching online deliveries.
I’d always had a good credit record but with my card maxed out I stopped opening the final demand letters. There was still a trickle of people looking at the flat share. One seemed perfect but decided it wasn’t for her. Perhaps I should have cleaned up a bit first but it was late evening when she called, on the day before the recycling collection, so it did look bad with so many empty bottles around.
When my online payment was rejected the deliveries stopped, and I forgot to pay for a bottle of Vodka at the corner shop. They prosecuted, my boss found out about it and let me go. With the rent six months behind I was evicted, and having lost contact with all my old friends ended up on the street. It all happened so quickly I was left reeling and unable to think straight.
Although I’d felt sorry for them I wasn’t like the homeless people you hear about on the news. I had a good job, friends, a nice place to live, money in my pocket. Or was that last year? Perhaps it was the year before. It’s hard trying to sleep when someone might steal the coat off your back, even if it is filthy and threadbare. Oh, I forgot. I exchanged it for some pills. I’m so cold. The guy said the tablets would warm me up. I think that’s what he said. Why is the bottle empty? I feel drowsy. Perhaps I’ll sleep now.
© Voinks August 2018
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