A few more days passed, and I found myself trying to hide away whenever there were cars flying by during rush hour. I didn’t want to be seen now, I felt embarrassed.
People would think I always looked like this, or they’d judge me for living like this. They weren’t to know how we’d found ourselves here, or even that it was just temporary. It was just til the end of next month.
If I saw anyone walking on the pavements near by I’d shrink away from the windows, or try to look like I wasn’t in the mood for a chat. Often people wouldn’t notice me anyway, and I’d taken to using our towels to block up the windows. It was a little for privacy, but also to try and keep out the unrelenting sunshine.
God it was so hot in the car. I’d have the windows wide open to let the breeze (if any) through. And I’d jam the towels in the doors so they’d hang down and create some shade. It looked awful and I felt it drew more attention to me, but I couldn’t see out, so felt like I had a bit of privacy back.
That’s the thing with sitting in the car all day, and all night. It’s like sitting in a greenhouse that is a few metres wide. Everyone can see in and they do – so you feel like you’re on display to the world.
The worst part is I felt on display, at my worst. My hair was unwashed, and getting lank and dark at the roots. I looked pale and we were both losing a lot of weight. Dining out all the time to dining out of soup cans is a very effective diet, although I think stressing about the situation had a part to play as well.
I try and keep a level head about me at all times, reasoning with myself that things aren’t as bad as they may seem, but without the safety of an actual Home, somewhere to really relax and kick back after a solid day, you end up feeling quite tense all the time.
I was sitting back with my head against the headrest trying to will myself into relaxing a bit – when the phone rang.
It came as a shock, because the only phonecalls we’d had recently had been from Orange trying to get us to pay our phone bill.
It was an unknown number, and I debated leaving it, but curiosity got the better of me and I answered.
‘ Is this Ryan?’
‘No. I’m his girlfriend though?’
Dread ran through me again. Who was this ? How on earth did they know my name ? I felt uneasy answering, and instantly put myself on guard.
‘ This is PC Alex-‘
‘ We’ve had a few reports that you’re sleeping in a car ?’
‘ Do you have any children ?’
‘ What ? No ?’
‘Well we’ve had reports of a child in a car on the estate.’
‘ Oh. No no children. It’s just us two.’
‘Ok. And is it your car?’
‘No… I mean. It’s Ryans. I don’t drive.’
‘Can I speak to Ryan please?’
‘No. Sorry he’s working.’
‘Right. And do you know the car doesn’t have any tax ? Or insurance ?’
Bugger. I do know. But what do I say ? Do I admit it ? Is that admitting to a crime ? Will I get Ryan in trouble if I know ? Fuck it. Just lie. You can play stupid if they question you.
‘ I didn’t know.’
‘There’s stuff hanging off it. You shouldn’t be driving it.’
She was sounding more stern now, and a bit sarcastic. Like I was stupid. I felt like I was annoying her just by talking.
‘I’m not driving it. We’re just sleeping in it. It hasn’t moved for ages.’
‘ You know if you are caught driving it, it could be taken off you ? Do you know that ?’
She’s pissing me off now. Yes I fucking know that. Do I have a solution ? Clearly not. I’m not sleeping in it for bloody fun. I don’t like being here just as much as who ever ( I wonder !) has told her I’m sleeping in it. I exhaled before I told her to Fuck Off.
She must have heard me sighing, because her voice changed and she said much more gently –
‘ You’re obviously sleeping in it for a reason. And I wouldn’t want you to lose everything. ‘
‘ Yes Officer. I know. Everything we have is in there.’
‘ I would prefer it if you moved it off the road… If something hit you – with you having no insurance..’
‘We will move it later on today when we can…somewhere proper with-‘
‘Are you ok?’
‘Yes ? I’m fine. Really.’
‘Right then. Move the car and when you can I hope you find something more suitable. You can’t stay there forever. ‘
‘I know – it’s just til the end of the month.’
‘Make sure it is. Good luck.’
She hung up.
Fucks sake. I thought, and I punched the sunshade back up with frustration. That Arsehole obviously rang the police then. We would have to move tonight. And hope we weren’t caught in the process. I felt paranoid – what if whoever was watching us saw us moving and rang the Police again to rat us out. We’d lose everything and then we really would be on the street.
I imagined us sat on the pavement with our suitcase, bags and duvet. We’d look a right pair I thought and I caught myself smiling…
It’s not funny ! I thought. But I couldn’t help grinning anyway. If I didn’t laugh I was sure I’d cry.
I occupied myself with rolling a cigarette.
I’d gotten the hang of rolling them super slim, so I wouldn’t waste any tobacco – this pouch had lasted me for two weeks now. And I was fumbling about for a lighter amongst the mess, when I saw a young guy walking across the road.
For Fucks sake. Can’t a homeless girl get some fecking peace ?! I briefly wondered if the male guys on the street ever got so many nosy guys asking after them.
I suppressed my rage and acknowledged the lad. He looked a similar age to me which was all the more humiliating. Like a reminder that young people should be in work, not just existing in a grubby old car.
‘Hi-‘ he puffed. ‘You ok?’
‘Iv been meaning to catch you – there’s just – some grumpy guy in there – he’s called the Police… I just thought you should know.’
‘ Yeah – I do know. They rang me.’
‘ Oh well. Sorry. About him – he’s a tosser.’
‘I could have told you that. Thanks for letting me know though. ‘
‘Yeah’ he laughed and I could feel it getting awkward. He looked around.
Then he made to go but I called after him.
‘ Tell him – whoever he is – that if he’s got a problem, come and tell me to my face !’
He laughed nervously in reply, and made off.
Dick. I thought.
And then I stopped and thought about it – actually – was that Matt ? The guy that wrote the note ?