The first snow had just fallen. It was freezing but it was still colder than the average temperatures for this time of year. All the fallen leaves had turned brown or orange and the ones hanging on the trees for dear life were mildly green. It had gone from summer to winter in a matter of five days. I’d slept on a bench in a park last night because I’d gotten to the homeless shelter late and it was full. My joints were sore from the improper bed. I walked around the neighborhood. Normally I would stay closer to the downtown area, there were more people, more opportunities to get a little cash but there were also more patrols and other homeless people around. I got on the train praying the c-train guards wouldn’t catch me without a pass. This early in the morning everyone was in a rush, it was crowded and the windows were fogging up. I took the train up to one of the universities in the area, one of the only ones accessible by the train.
I could only dream of going to this place in my next life. I could barely pay to stay alive never mind classes to learn anything. I wrapped my coat closer around my thin frame and attempt to hide my sign from the people around me. It was embarrassing, but I had to feed myself someway. It was impossible to get a job in this day and age without an email or phone number to receive your schedule or experience. Nobody wanted me with the way I looked either. I clutched my bag to my chest pretending to be a college freshman until the train platform cleared. Aside from the people waiting to get on the train to go back towards the city center it was sparse.
I went inside the train station and sat with my sign, I hoped and prayed that nobody called campus security and got me kicked off the property. As much shelter as the train station gave it was still cold. I kept my head down trying to keep warm and out of people’s way. The first few hours were hell and hundreds of people walked past, they’d glance, stare, read the sign, ignore me. I heard a few coins slip into the cup, I’d mumble, “Thank you!” quickly but every time I looked up they’d be gone. Nobody likes being seen with a homeless person. People want to be generous but when others are watching, it’s hard. It’s easier to ignore, walk past, go on living your life.
Around twelve I move down to the bottom of the ramp of the train station, mainly because it wasn’t as cold with the sun up. I felt people’s eyes drag across we as they climbed the stairs to get to the bridge that led to the train platform. I dug my hands deeper into my pockets, I’d made about seven dollars so far, I’d counted before moving. Enough to buy me one meal. I was trying to decide where to go and what I could buy. I could get a small burger from McDonald’s and a drink. I was craving candy, but I knew that wouldn’t fill or sustain me till tomorrow. I thought about just buying loaves of bread, too. Then, I could have multiple meals for a while but they’d be simple.
I began thinking about how nice it would have been to go to university or college. Most kids in my position would be lucky to go. I’m not talking about homeless kids, my parents died when I was ten, I spent a fair amount of time in the foster care system after that. I was one of the kids who fell through the cracks. Disappeared and had nobody looking for them. I sometimes wondered what happened to my social worker and what she was doing.
Being a homeless kid in a first-world or any world country shouldn’t be a thing. Kids are supposed to learning and growing, not worrying about where their next meal is coming from. Half an hour passed and I considered getting up and finding somewhere to spend my money because the next rush would be around five when everyone would be going home. I decided to wait a bit longer though because there was still a steady stream of people passing by. My stomach growled and I signed. My lips were chapped because of the cold snap and my terrible habit of licking them. They were sore. I wished I could afford chapstick. I wished I could buy candy without regretting it. My birthday had been a few weeks ago, I wish I could have bought myself something. I needed new socks, winter shoes, so much and so little money. I prayed then, too, for a miracle. I always wondered if anyone was even listening, or if it was all pointless.