The next few days weren’t so bad, it was amazing how much better you feel when you can have a cup of tea.
The teabags were cheap, and UHT milk was disgusting. It would only last a couple of days before there’d be bits floating in my tea. But it didn’t matter. There’s something about holding a mug of tea that makes everything seem alright again.
However, it seemed that now a few people had noticed us in the corner, everyone wanted to know what we were up to…
I don’t mind chatting to someone if they come up to the window. I often say hello to the dog walkers as they breeze past, and even the ones that linger around peering in. They think they’re being subtle. They aren’t.
I know what they want, and it’s some more details of what they see in the car, what I was up to, how I behaved around them. It was just idle gossip – each wanting to pass something on to their husbands or friends when the subject of the ‘Homeless couple‘ arose.
One example of this was a man who called himself – The Concerned Neighbour.
I was sitting in the heat of the car, I was actually having a debate whether I should leave the windows open or not, because wasps kept flying in and pissing me off- when I heard footsteps shuffling towards the car.
I rose up to the window thinking it was Ryan when I was met by a middle aged man peering in.
I couldn’t see him very well ( because of my bad eyesight!) but I knew he was doing the half crouched, finger raised ‘ sorry to bother you’ pose..
I leaned out the window.
‘ Hello… Sorry to bother you…’ He began.
‘ That’s alright. Are you ok?’ I asked him
‘ Well… That’s what I was going to ask you actually. I’m… I’m a neighbour..’
I looked at him.
A neighbour ? We were living outside the fuckin CSA agency. There was a village nearby but no one close enough to consider a ‘neighbour’…
‘ Iv seen you in the car. I just wanted to see if you were ok’
He seemed nervous, like he was going to say the wrong thing and he didn’t want to come across as nosy or intrusive. He seemed to be having a battle in his head with what words were coming out, and I smiled at him.
I wanted to tell him that no – I wasn’t ok.
I was lonely and hungry all the time. I get cold at night and too hot in the day. I was worried all the time, every minute that we would have our car taken off us. I was worried that no one cared where I was. I was anxious that someone would get violent with me, just because I was here. I wanted to tell him that I just didn’t know what to do, if our plan failed again, because I wasn’t sure I could take any more months living like this. I wanted to ask him if he knew, if he really knew, what it feels like to have no where to go.
One moment you feel involved with everyone else, experiencing life at the same time as them, and the next you are living in a car, tucked out of the way, without anyone knowing where you are.
‘ I’m fine Thankyou. It’s just a temporary thing..’
He interrupted me ‘- Is there anything I can do ? Anything at all?’
I pursed my lips at that.
We all say it don’t we ? Is there any bring I can do ? But do we really mean it? Anything at all..?
I knew he meant well. But I also knew he meant help that reached as far as – a phonecall to someone. Or some loose change. Maybe even a sandwich for the day.
All those things might help me. But only for a moment. They wouldn’t help me in the long term, and that was the only help that I really needed.
‘ I don’t think so. But Thankyou. It’s kind of you to ask.’
He began stuttering something else when another older man appeared from around the brambles. He was coming our way.
‘ Hello Flower’ He trilled.
Ugh. I must have pulled a face but I didn’t care. I didn’t mind chatting to people. I don’t mind at all – but I fucking HATE men, I don’t know, calling me pet names.
It made me feel young, and inferior. He was smiling in a way that didn’t reach his eyes. The way cartoon villains smile when they want something.
Now both men were side by side at the window.
‘ This is my work colleague-‘ The first guy said.
‘ So..’ The second guy peered in at me. ‘You’re homeless then.’
I glared at him. Obviously, you crank.
I raised my eyebrows as a reply.
‘ Well why don’t you go to the council ?’ He said it in that way, that assumed I hadn’t thought of that. Like I hadn’t exhausted all viable options before finally coming to be in the car.
I explained that I’d already done that, but they had classed us as intentionally homeless. Then I added that I had attempted to claim benefits too, but you can’t do that without a fixed address. We were in a catch 22, and were not the councils problem.
Both men digested this information.
‘ Well. I hope your ok. I’d seen you here a few times myself, but I didn’t like to disturb you.’
‘ We get travellers down here, about once a year.’
He looked around at the rubbish, caught the first guys eye an
d they both seemed to silently acknowledge the previous, messy tenants.
‘ They certainly made themselves known’ the first guy sighed.
I asked what they meant by that and they both looked shocked. Neither seemed to want to be the one to say.
The second guy piped up first.
‘ Well… All the litter you see ? Everywhere.’
I didn’t like to point out that since being here I’d found out where all the rubbish was coming from. All the office workers from the CSA would come back from lunch, or park up for lunch – and throw their rubbish into the bushes when they’d finished. I’d seen almost all of them doing it. And yet it was being blamed on people that couldn’t even defend themselves.
I smiled politely at them instead.
‘ Anyway-‘ the original man began ‘ We’ll leave you alone. Just let us know if you need anything.’
The two of them strode off and I watched them go. Without a glance behind them I saw the second guy pat the firsts back and say
‘ Well done John’
I leant back and put my arms above my head.
‘ Yeah well done John ‘ I said out loud.
I closed my eyes.
You’ve really done your bit.
I sat and sweated out the rest of the day alone.