Let’s get one thing straight. Trying to wash up in a sink in a different dirty restroom every day does not work at all. It is as if you never actually feel clean, and there is rarely, if ever any cold water. Sometimes my mom takes our kettle that we have with us and cook water in the restroom since some of them have power outlets. Only then it feels a little bit better and do I feel a bit cleaner, but for the most it’s horrible. We also can’t stop at the same gas station twice in a row. It’s like they get to know us too quickly, and with the very first one, after about a week the manager asked us to move the car at night and not sleep there anymore, and he also complained about us using the restroom, refusing to give us the key to go into it. He acted as if he was doing us some massive favor in the first place, but believe me… That dirty bathroom was no favor to begin with. We have tried the restrooms in the malls, but it feels very weird trying to wash underneath your armpits with the chance of someone walking in on you at any given moment. For the past few days I have been going in to school much earlier. Trying my best to wash up a little bit by sneaking into the disabled bathroom. It’s not just much cleaner, but the chance of being caught is way less as well.
I have come to discover that being homeless is not for the faint hearted.
“Cory! Wait up! Please!” Mandy shouts behind me, but I just keep on walking faster and faster. She is by far the last person I want to talk to, and even if I really did want to talk to her, it wasn’t as if I could just let it go that she has been ignoring me for weeks. Maybe two weeks ago I would’ve still listened to her, but after all the cold baths in basins in strange places I was over it. I still wanted to kick myself for not having a shower that day I fell asleep on Patrick’s bed. I could have at least gotten something more than a few hours’ worth of sleep for all the anxiety I needed to endure because of my mom not knowing where I was.
“Please Cory! Wait up!” she yells behind me and I can hear her heels clanking on the floor, which means she is walking very fast to try and keep up. She might even break into a run.
I don’t care that the kids around us in the hallway is looking at us. They all probably also know that we are not allowed to run in the hallways which means that Mandy might just actually catch up with me before I reach the outside of the building. Especially if she keeps on walking this fast. For some reason people don’t make space when a guy, and a gay guy at that is walking as fast as he can. They do however make way for a girl very fast.
“Cory! Please just stop!” she yells again, making me feel like the entire hallway is actually looking at me.
She finally reaches me as I knew she would at some point, grabbing me by the shoulder, but she doesn’t need to spin me around because I do it myself.
“What?” I sneer at her. The last thing I need is some soppy apology just because she feels sorry for my. I have already seen pity in her eyes once before. I don’t need to see it again, although her eyes are not showing pity this time. She seems almost mad.
“Can we talk?” she says looking around her at the few kids still standing still to look at us, hoping for an interesting bit of gossip. The rest of them who were staring has luckily decided to go on with their lives. “In private please.”
“Can this wait?” I ask with the fullest intentions of her saying yes and then me walking away and avoiding her for another few weeks.
“Not really. It’s about you and Rich Rick,” she says and I can almost see the ears of the kids around us sprint up to attention.
“Drama class? It’s usually empty this time of day,” I say softly. No need for anyone to hear exactly where we are going as well. They will have enough to talk about just having heard my name in the same sentence as Patrick’s.
“Sure,” she says and turns around, walking to the drama class which is all the way back in the direction she came from in the first place.
Reluctantly I follow her. Better me follow her and listen to what she has to say than her maybe getting mad and screaming what she wants to say at the top of her lungs for the entire school to hear.
There’s a mousy haired boy in the drama class. I know him from around school. There’s lots of rumors going around that he might be gay. He is one of those poor kids that actually gets beat up because of it, but from what I have heard he deserved the last beating he got for sneaking into the locker at the last football game and taking photos with his phone of the jocks getting undressed. I can’t help but wonder if he got a picture of Patrick as well. I’ve been to his house twice after the day he took me home to get some sleep, and every time it goes the same way. We kiss until I can hardly control myself any longer and then he wants us to go and grab something to eat while he cools down. I never cool down. I am turning into a horny teenager and the only thing I want at this stage is to get him naked, but so far it hasn’t worked one bit. Maybe it’s just because I am really bad at flirting.
“Scram kid,” Mandy says to the kid as she walks in the door and spots him at the far end of the classroom. “We don’t need pictures of our private times, thank you very much.”
He doesn’t even protest and literally runs out of the room without looking back.
“That wasn’t very nice,” I say to Mandy. “It’s not even really you. You’re not usually that mean.”
“No I’m not. But I am irritated, angry enough to kill, and you are the most frustrating piece of shit in this entire school. Not to mention that the kid I just told to scram is a little perv if you can believe the stories going around,” she answers as she plunks herself down on one of the chairs in the front of the classroom.
“The story about him taking pictures is apparently true. Patrick told me about it. He stopped them from beating the poor kid to death,” I sigh. “Maybe he’s just horny. I can relate to that.”
“Are you trying to tell me you haven’t done the nasty with Rich Rick yet?” she asks, raising her left eyebrow.
“Not that it has anything to do with you, but I have had more pressing things to worry about than sex. I am homeless you know. I would prefer my first time being at a time where my hygiene is at its best and I am not washing up in gas station restrooms.”
I know I am sounding bitter, and I know I am maybe directing a bit too much of it to Mandy in hopes of making her feel guilty, but I can’t help it. As much as I don’t want anyone to pity me, I also really want someone to see what I am going through. It’s not like I want a gold star on my forehead, but a little bit of recognition for the fact that I haven’t hanged myself yet would be nice at this point in time.
“Which brings me to what I have to talk to you about,” Mandy says without even acknowledging what I have said, which just brings me back to the fact that she wasn’t really a friend to begin with if she doesn’t give a shit about what I am going through at this point.
“Yes?” I ask feeling irritated enough to actually slap her, but I keep myself reigned in as much as I can.
“Jaycee knows your homeless,” she answers.
“What?” I can’t help but hope that I am hearing incorrectly, but the cold that is flooding through my entire body tells me I heard everything she says one hundred percent.
“He saw you at the gas station where you guys were parked yesterday. He was actually spying on you. He’s been telling the whole school the whole day that you are homeless and living in a car with your mom and Chloe,” she says and for the first time I see a little bit of pity in her eyes.
“Derick heard from his girlfriend Alicia, who heard it from Hannah who is that bitchy red haired slut that Jaycee hangs around with. So Derick told Brent at football practice and after that he told me to tell you that Jaycee is going to use this information to get between you and Patrick. He off course doesn’t know that Patrick doesn’t know yet, but I am sure he will find a way to make himself look like a saint, while dishing all your secrets to Patrick. I can actually hear the little slut now. ‘Oh Patrick… You have such a good heart for being with someone who is homeless.’ He makes me want to puke, I tell you!” Mandy rambles without taking a single breath, leaving me to wonder how the hell she formulates words and sentences that quickly in her head, while my brain is still struggling to keep up with all the names she just said.
In the end I just look at her, giving up on trying to understand how all the names actually fit together and rather thinking about finding Patrick before Jaycee does.
“I need to go and find Patrick,” I say not knowing what else there is. I have so much on my heart but no real way to say it at all.
“Yeah, you should,” Mandy says as I walk toward the door.
I put my hand on the handle of the door, but then I turn around to her again.
“Thanks Mandy. Really,” I say, and I can’t believe how much my heart hammers when she smiles at me, nodding her head. Maybe it is time for me to make up with her. And I promise I will do so as soon as I have found Patrick.
Without standing to think for another second I dart out of the classroom and down the hall, knowing that if I am really quick, I might still be able to catch Patrick at his car. He usually waits for me before he leaves. We stand at his car and talk for a few minutes. Depending on what my mom arranged with me I will sometimes ask him to drop me off at the mall where she gets me, and other times I just pretend she is late picking me up and I walk three blocks up from the school where she waits for me in the shade of a tree planted right in front of a small art shop.
I know Patrick has seen me before I even have the time to consider turning around and running back into the school because of Jaycee standing next to him. I know there is no turn around anymore, so I slowly approach them until Jaycee turns around and sees me as well. He smiles at me and then turns back to Patrick, tapping him back in a sympathetic way before he walks to him own car that’s parked only a few spaces away from Patrick.
By the time I reach Patrick, Jaycee has already started his car and is backing out of the parking, still smiling at me every time he catches my eye.
“Is it true?” I was Patrick substitutes his normal greeting me with a hug with.
“That I’m homeless?” I ask, trying to still play dumb a little bit longer. I try to put on an innocent fake smile, but I guess it doesn’t work because Patrick’s face gets even more serious.
“So it’s true?” he asks again.
“Yes.” I can feel my stomach contracting and it takes everything in me not to puke over his shoes.
“Since when?” he asks.
“A couple of weeks into the semester,” I answer.
“And we are almost at Christmas break. How long has that been? Three months? Four?” he asks.
“To be fair, we were living in a motel for a while,” I say looking down at my shoes while I allow Patrick’s eyes to bore a whole right through me and make me feel even worse.
“Why did you lie about it?”
There is so much disappointment in his voice that I struggle to keep the tears at bay. The one person I didn’t want to disappoint sounds like he has lost all faith in me.
“I dunno,” I say, even though I have a thousand different reasons, but not one of them wants to cross my lips.
“You know… It’s not the homeless part that’s an issue. It’s that you didn’t trust me enough, which just shows what you think of me,” Patrick says shaking his head slowly from side to side. “I really thought that we had something.”
“We do…” I whisper, trying my best to keep the tears from coming. “I wanted to tell you, but I wanted to be normal.”
“Normal is trusting the people who care about you Cory,” Patrick says.
“Where does that leave us?” I ask.
“I don’t know. I need time to think about this,” he answers.
Within minutes and without our usual hug I watch Patrick as he drives away, leaving me alone on the school parking lot, wishing for not the first time that I was rather dead.