Every day, for as long as I can remember, I have sat in this same alley, holding out a can and begging for money, anything that will give me sustenance, just enough to get me through each day.
People pass by; holding their children close and telling them in hushed voices they ignorantly think I can’t hear: ‘Stay away from him, he looks like trouble’. As I look into the eyes of that child I see fear, a longing to be away from this hideous, revolting person that I am. And as my eyes swiftly move to the parent, I see a sense of anger, hatred and despise. Not because I have done something wrong, but because I look like a corrupted human being. They offer no sympathy, no small change, no help, no love or care for a fellow member of society. But then again, when, if ever is life fair?
The clothes I wear have been with me from childhood. They are awfully small, ripped and tattered. I wear no shoes, no socks. I almost laugh at this though. My shoes were sold long ago. My wrinkly skin is covered in a heavy layer of grimy dust, the soles of my hands and feet covered with countless blisters and scabs, my hair grey with age and my eyes bloodshot, most of my teeth have fallen out, but the ones that remain are chipped, brownish-yellow and full of holes. To passers-by I have the look of a man long passed insanity, and long passed help.
Have you ever had a feeling of regret? A longing to change the parts of your life that went wrong?
As a boy, I was striving, motivated, enthusiastic, and hardworking and above all my parents were proud of me. I was doing well at school. The teachers thought of me as a genius. By the end of the semester, I had already finished the year’s syllabus. The teachers would give me more work and I would finish it. They would ‘challenge’ me and I would think nothing of it. Eventually it got to the stage where I would sit around and do nothing in class.
Now entering year nine and old enough to apply for a job, I thought it would be fun to earn some money. This is the moment in my life that I look at with the most regret. This was the moment were I made my fatal mistake. I chose to go and work at a burger joint. You may ask, what’s so bad about this?
My mistake was to become complacent, to be satisfied with what I was earning. So satisfied, that I even dropped out of school, so I could become a full-time worker at the burger joint. I figured that because I had more time on my hands, I could spend longer hours at the burger joint earning a lousy sixteen dollars an hour. I thought I was set for life. I figured that I would get raises, bonuses and maybe even promotions. Three years down the track and I had been promoted, to manager! But what were my earnings you may ask? I was earning the small sum, of twenty-five dollars an hours. Working for three years with an average raise of three dollars a year, I believed I was doing well. How little did I know.
Two years later at the age of twenty, I was still working in the same burger joint and still earning a meagre twenty-five dollars. This year however I had made the decision to move out of my parents’ house and rent a flat. This cost a considerable amount of the money I had earned, just to rent for even the first few months. I hadn’t even begun to think about the whole year. So life continued and I stayed at the burger joint working as the manager, now earning still twenty-five dollars an hour and aged twenty-two.
What else could I do with my life?
I had dropped out of school, hadn’t entered University and I didn’t even have any career interests. I had no options and all the doors were closed to me, literally. My parents refused to help me. They didn’t just say that they couldn’t help me; they outright refused to help me. I had lost the trust of my parents. As a child, they helped me whenever they could, teaching me right and wrong, giving me ideas for my future. Now that I think of it, they weren’t worried about their future, they had that counted for. They were worried only for my future. Now they did not care if I succeeded for if I failed. I had not only disappointed my parents, I had shamed our family name.
And so it was that at the age of twenty-two I was broke. I had only rented out a flat for one year and had already spent all the earnings I had made from the age of fifteen and I was still in debt. I had nothing. And so I did the only thing I could. I left the flat and lived in the streets for the next year. Still working at the burger joint at the age of twenty-five, I had been demoted to floor cleaner and I was now taking orders from a small, cocky fifteen year old. Each day coming to work was a nightmare. The boy would ridicule me, call me names. I could handle this, but for the life of me I could not handle taking orders for a young teenage boy.
Every day I went to work. Every day I got bossed around by a small teenage kid. Every day I returned home to my small side alley and slept in my box. I didn’t even have my own pair of clothes. I was sleeping in the same burger joint outfit that I bought at the age of twenty.
Thinking these thoughts every night caused me to snap. I began constantly arguing with my boss every day, until he eventually fired me. As I walked back to my ‘home’ that day all my emotions left me. All the aspects that made me human deserted me. Now I had nothing.
I became insane, crazed. I became the man I am today. The lunatic who sits on the side walk with a crazed look in his eyes begging you to hand over a dollar or two. I am the person who your child has nightmares about. I am the person you despise. I am everything you don’t want to be.
But truth be told, I may have wasted my life, but I was once just like you. All it takes is one foolish decision to throw your life into regret.