A Non-existent Hope
“Hey mister, why are you sleeping on the street?”
I opened my eyes to find a small boy - at about the age of six - nudging me. I grunted. A woman came hurriedly to the scene. “Tommy,” she scolded “What did I tell you about speaking to strangers?” She left me a cent and was off. I faintly heard the boy ask his mother “Why isn’t he at his house? Doesn’t he have-“
The wind cut him off. Why indeed?
I kept the coin with the rest. It’s not the money I want, not the food, not even the water. No, what I long for the most is life, success, love, and acceptance. I want a normal life with no judgment, no hardships. I want a home like Tommy, someone who looks out for me. I want to live. I want happiness. I need happiness. Well, I can’t have that, can I?
Living on the streets, you see things. I see people crying, people smiling, and people ignorant. I also see kids fighting with parents, brothers and even their friends. I find people staring sadly into that-weird-device-that-people-hold-to-their-ears. None, though, notice their positions, none appreciate their lives as much as I would, if I could. None understand what it feels to be left in the dark, living in the shadows of others, nothing to live for, looking for survival, worrying each day that I will be left with an empty stomach, living on the hope of a non-existent tomorrow. A hope that is shattered mockingly, day by day.
I also hear people talking deeply and passionately of how human beings should be together, and how we should help each other, yet here I am. That’s what humans do, they look but do not see, they touch but they can’t feel, and they talk, but they don’t do.
Now and then someone passes with all these black and white makeup, piercings and other deformities. From how they act, they look so depressed. Life is drained from their body, and, they just welcome that. They destroy their bodies in the sense that they hate it, and I just sit there watching them, feeling as unstable as they are, yet, despising them for their ignorance. In a way, all humans are ignorant.
Am I even a human? I’ve been stranded in these filthy streets since I don’t know how long. I know every food source in town, every kind-hearted place I can go to, every cheap place, but never did I know the feeling to be accepted and cared about. Life has a way of mocking me, bringing what I don’t have in front of me. Like their gadgets and contraptions, their money, and their families. Even their happiness plunges me deeper and deeper into the shadows’ clutches.
I lay thinking. The flies buzzed and flew, but, I did not waste my energy, they will not go away, I’ve grown used to it. The glimmering sun forced its stinging heat on me. I sighed. How I long for success and meaning. How I yearn to create a place in community, it seems too far away. Stricken with sadness, I decided to just go to sleep again. Maybe, I would wake up in a much better world.
When I woke, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I rubbed them until I could see colors. A man sat next to me, dressed in fine clothes. He wore a suit, had clean, brushed hair, and had seemingly recently shaved and showered. I awkwardly made for touching the jacket, but stopped myself.
“Hello” he said.
“Hello” I responded in a dry, raspy voice.
He opened a package. My tongue itched and my stomach growled. My pupils dilated. In the package was food. The most pleasing I’ve ever seen. He smiled and gave it to me. I looked in to it, there were a couple of pieces of chicken, some –surprisingly- yellow rice and some fried potato sticks. I ate. I ate like a savage eating every bit of the food, devouring the contents of the package. The food slithered down my throat. My body felt stronger.
He gave me a water bottle. I drank. The water wet every bit of my throat, almost replenishing my endless thirst. It felt as if a storm had finally reached the desert. A tear rolled down my eyes, I don’t know whether it was the kindness of the man that got to me, or the pleasure of the food. Either way, I was overwhelmed.
I tried to overcome the lump in my throat. “Thank you” I managed to get out. He just smiled in reply.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“That doesn’t matter.”
“It does to me.”
“Well, I’m just someone who understands you, for I was much like you.” He said “I want to make you happy.”
He just beamed at me.
I asked him, about everything. I asked him about the gibberish people talk about. I asked him about beaches, I heard of it before, but never understood. I asked him how the world looks. It turns out, not a lot of people go to space. I even asked him about that-weird-device-that-people-hold-to-their-ears, or, as I found out, cell phones. I asked him if I was human, he laughed and nodded. “You’re no different than nobody else,” He said “You just have a bigger heart.” The day rolled on like this, I gave him my question in exchange for answers.
He was giving his goodbyes when my heart jumped. I forgot something. I stood up. “Wait!” I almost screamed. He turned around and faced me, questioningly. “You said you were like me” He nodded. “Well, how did you turn up like this? What’s your secret? What’s the secret? What’s the secret to success? How can I find happiness?”
He smiled, as if he waited for that all day. He answered the shortest, but most complex answer I’ve ever heard. My body filled with joy to that answer, I’ve been waiting for his answer all my life.
“Thank you,” I managed to say “for everything.”
by: Mahmoud El Hakim