It is cold…so cold, but I refuse to think on it for long. It won’t change anything. It wastes my time.
I need that time to watch and wait for just the right group to enter the building. It’s not easy. Too small a group and I will attract their notice. And their scorn.
I hate people’s eyes on me. The haughty looks; the disgust when they realize that I am not like them; the pity when they see how far beneath them I have fallen.
I see a family approach the door. They are perfect. A soccer-mom and useless dad, their gaggle of hellion children to rush ahead, a pair of grand-parents to slow them.
I sidled up behind them and wait for the father to open the heavy outer door. The children push through in a frenzy. I reach for the door and hold it for the older couple then, I take the chance and enter the warmth of the hotel lobby.
The kids have surged ahead of the parents. The grandma and grandpa have trailed behind and all together they create a wall of sight and sound that I skirt to avoid the gaze of the Front Desk staff. They watch the doors all the time. I don’t dare enter alone.
It is a long walk down the hall to the breakfast room. Already, I can feel the warmth of the building creeping into my clothes and limbs.
I feel the familiar rage build in me again. These people, all around me, with their cars and their vacations, throwing more money away on useless junk today than I have had to spend for food all month.
They stare at me as I stump my way to where the food is…or it feels like they stare. Most people glance past me. They don’t see me, can’t make themselves look in my eyes, won’t admit that I exist.
I make them uncomfortable. And we can’t have THAT, can we? So they turn a blind eye and pretend.
The smell of food makes my stomach ache. There are piles of it at every spot on the buffet counter. God…so much food.
How much will they throw away? I always ask myself this question. It silences the feelings of guilt about what I am about to steal. They don’t need this much…that fat kid in the corner has just thrown away more than I wanted to take…so that makes it OK.
The anger is growing in me now. I know I am not fit to be among people when I feel this hate rising up, but I need food and warmth. I stop short of naming companionship among my needs. I know I won’t get it and my face feels tight in a scowl.
I take a plate and put as much food on it as it will hold and then, in an act of sheer reckless defiance…I pour myself coffee into a paper cup and leave the room with my treasure: cheap hotel breakfast.
There is a quiet place upstairs, a common room with couches and chairs, a table to eat from and heaters blowing. I put my feet up on the table and wiggle my toes inside the worn boots to get the blood moving in my feet.
I want to relax more, but I cannot. I dare not. Someone is always around.
A woman walks by me with her daughter. They look at me and almost see me for what I am, but my angry glare makes them look away. I frighten them.
I don’t stay long. Long enough to almost drift off to sleep and that is what drives me to move.
I risk a last cup of coffee, this time from the lobby, and make my mistake. I come down the stairs and there is a man in the lobby. He is watching the lobby closely and he sees me enter. His eyes narrow and he approaches me slowly.
I have already turned back toward the stairs. I can feel my heart beating madly in my chest. I want to run but his voice makes me turn back. I need time.
He asks me what room I am in and I mutter a number, on the second floor and growl a name at random when he asks. He turns away, he’s going to the front desk.
I sprint up the stairs and reach the upper hall. If I can get down the hall quickly enough I can avoid…
He is in the hall. Too fast…I am far enough ahead…there are the stairs down to the back exit.
Another hotel worker is waiting there. He asks me the same questions. I laugh at him. My fear is turning back into rage and I hear my accusations building in my head.
They are so smug and comfortable with their homes and jobs. They don’t care! About where I will sleep…or if I will EAT agin this week.
The one from the lobby is there again, walking slowly toward me and demanding ID.
“WHY?” I scream at him. “Why do you need it?”
“Because I don’t think you are a guest here. If you have rented a room and have an ID that shows it, we can put this behind us. But I don’t think you belong here, sir.”
I don’t belong here? No…but his words spark the flame I have tamped down all day, all week, all month.
I laugh at him and mock him. I curse at him and yell as I back away from him. I won’t turn my back. I won’t look away.
I am screaming gibberish at him now. I don’t understand what I am saying. The words gush out on all the rage and sorrow I have built up since losing my home, my family, my life…
I am in the street now. Off their property and safe from them.
I turn and, with an eye over my shoulder to make sure they don’t follow, I walk away.
Into the cold and dark. Into the unknown.
I don’t know where I will sleep tonight. I may not, just keep moving to stay warm…or I will die.
But today…today was a good day! There was food today. And I felt warm.
The link at the top takes you to the Weekly Challenge that prompted this Post: to write from someone elses perspective.
I had this encounter with a homeless man in the hotel lobby where I work. I feel sorry for him. I DO! But I could not let him stay.
I wrote this from his eyes, and I hope that someday I can help those in need.