“HI, HOW ARE YOU?”

by Kev Walker

Content warning:  mentions substance misuse, mental health, homelessness, conflict

It’s all bling and totter, down the lights of the highstreet, drunk by the train journey there
Cackles and shouts, tales of shagging and swearing, cosmetics squeeze out the air
Bravado and vanity, beer and wine, heading for the first open club
Boys strut with their chests out, showing a leg, only thoughts are of getting a rub.

He’s crouched in the corner, a-top a damp box, wrapped in a half soaking doss-bag
A dog by his side, as companion and protector, a mucker to share a sparse nose-bag
He shakes with the cold, but also the comedown          the cider has long since left him
A blot-out, a release, from the pain in his mind and the mess he now finds himself in.

The thoughts flood his senses, the reality hits home, he’s back on a freezing cold street
His weakness is bared for all to see and the clubbers throw contempt at their feet
He no longer begs, for his pride has been shattered, his bones took a battering too
“Fucking Alcy old tramp! Get a job!” “I don’t work to pay your special brew!”

No safe place left, for he’s banned from the hostel, the drink made damn sure of that
Lost control of his bowels, soon followed his patience, they took back the key to his flat
It wasn’t so bad, a few months ago          his life going back the right way.
But his pride took a knock, as often it had          frosty-jack led him back to today.

He lays in the street, in a terrible mess, the clubbers sneer or ignore him
It’s all his own fault, he chose a life of addiction, as opposed to what lay before him
This is true in a way, as a harsh fact of life, but the soap-box is on shakey ground
For he once had perfect control of his life, a young family and a wife around.

He thinks of them now in his darkest moments, they even cut through the haze
He loves them dearly and it tears at his soul, they won’t hold his touch or his gaze
See a Soldier once, and proud he was too, professional, dedicated and bright
Filled with compassion and a guardian of others          till the flash and the bang of that night.

He still hears the silence, can still feel the heat, taste the coppery stench of the gore
Intact and undamaged, but his muckers around him, a crimson display on the floor!
The dust in his eyes, that warm sickly wetness, the smell you cannot explain
The feeling of emptiness and of ultimate guilt as he stands in a crouch filled with pain.

The guilt never left him, nor thoughts of that day, but to talk about it never an option
So he bottled it up, pushed everyone away and slowly put his life up for adoption
Unable to function, fell into debt, his family poured love in his kitbag
But the booze killed the voices the smells and the guilt          if only for a while in the doss-bag.

His fault not being Idle, nor being self-centred, he wanted to be strong for others,
His fault was pride and misplaced guilt, as he watched the death of his brothers.
The callous jeers and judging stares, of the passers-by this Saturday night
Steel his resolve, for what he must do, it’s time to make things right.

The cider’s worn off, but there’s pills in his pocket, he saved them up for a while
The twenty should do it and no one would notice          just another dead tramp in a pile
He holds back a tear, the shaking more violent, he feels sick to the core of his soul.
A spinning mass of vivid recollection, filling his mind like a bowl

He didn’t notice her as she approached, too wrapped up in what he must do
She crouched by his side, this total stranger and asked: “Hi          How are you?”
Bewildered and shocked, he took in her features, muttered:
“Ok, thanks         and you?”

They spoke for ten minutes, she brought him back coffee, a warm box of chips from the van
Spoke to him as an equal, just down on his luck, made him remember the man
When she left, he felt better                   though somehow the same, got the pills and the dregs of his brew
“Maybe tomorrow” he thought to himself

 or maybe it’s worth fighting through.

Featured image: Ariana1985 / DeviantArt


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