The blistering wind made him shiver. He wrapped his too small and too thin hoodie tightly around his shoulders, but it made no difference. He might as well have been wearing a coat of paper. It was just one thing on the list of things he needed to replace. The wind had swept away his will to keep going. Tucking into a grey dark corner, he shuddered. The wall was covered with sticky grime that clung to his sweater as thorns stick to cotton. Then he sank to the ground, ignoring the flash of pain as his spine hit the unforgiving concrete.
A fancy lady with her son hurried across the soggy street before the walking sign changed to a glowing red hand. She carried a neon pink umbrella in one hand and a bulging bag of groceries in the other. Her little boy, no older than seven, galloped behind her in his brand new rain boots and shiny black rain jacket.
Why hadn’t he ended up with that rich mother who could afford to buy a whole bag of groceries and still have nice clothes? Why was it him who had to suffer through days and nights without meals? Why was it him who had to collect the tasteless cans the food bank sometimes provided?
His spiteful and angry thoughts were interrupted when he felt the stinging cold of a raindrop. His hazel eyes glanced up at the furious sky, a blanket of rolling black velvet. The little pearls of water dripped down slowly, then with a frequent intensity. The boy brought his gaze back to Earth, to the people who dared to venture out on this dark winter evening. The water caught like tears on his long eyelashes.
The boy’s eyes floated to a bright restaurant’s window. The sign at the door flashed in red and blue. He couldn’t read the name of the restaurant. He couldn’t read at all. Where had his parents been when he was supposed to learn to read?
Inside, he focused on a young girl with her father, sitting right beside the window. Her father, a tall, beefy man with a beer belly, pointed to the vegetables on her plate. The little girl had ribbons in her blond hair. She crossed her arms over her chest and scrunched up her face. Then she shook her head in a definite no.
Why couldn’t he have so much food that he could afford to say no to a few vegetables? If only eating vegetables had been his biggest problem.
A teenaged couple walked past. Their hands were joined between them. The girl with bright streaks in her hair flashed a grin at her boyfriend. Her smile faded when she looked down at the boy. The man glanced down at him in distaste and they took the long route around him, skittering closer to the heavily trafficked road. It was as though he was more dangerous than the cars whizzing down the street.
Why couldn’t he be the man avoiding the homeless boy on the street?
Why couldn’t that be him?
By: Sarah Wissmann