'Far Away and Somewhere Else' by Shelley Day Sclater
He carved a house out of a giant bar of soap and lived there happily until the rains came and washed it all away. Never did a cleaner man lament the dissolution of a home. Never did a more hopeful man set sail for the faraway shores of somewhere else.
He found queues, dammit. He had to wait. His life was one long wait. Most days he spent leaning against the big flat window of the Starbucks on Buchanan Street.
A sorry sight, some say, shaking their heads. How come They get like that? Now you just tell me how it is they let themselves get that way.
Some smile weakly – such a Waste, they say - as they pass through the swinging door and out onto the busy street, already sipping from their cardboard cups with plastic lids, seemingly in a hurry; he’d never understood that need to be in such a hurry. His head moves along with them, his eyes track their feet, see all manner of feet hit hit hitting the pavement in rhythm, with purpose, intent, deliberation. They pass him; he knows the precise spot where their steps will start to slow, the hurry gone. And like they’re recovering from being winded, their shoulders rise and drop, big new breaths audible then dissolving. They’re back in their own lives. He’s not there any more.
Mostly he’s invisible, transparent as the sneering Starbucks’ glass that doesn’t even throw his reflection back. People on the other side of it are different. Look at them on the inside drinking lattes chatting smiling tapping away on laptops frowning into mobiles eating cupcakes hugging. But for the glass, he’d be rubbing shoulders with that one there with the tousled hair.
Oh, it was cold that winter. Yes yes, you’d known it colder, but this was different. This was cold that made your bones spike as though already stripped of flesh. The sleeping bag was useless, worse than. You’d even piss yourself on purpose for the warmth of it, for the stinking comforting wet warmth of it.
Did you survive that winter? Something did, you’re not sure what. When someone shook you by the shoulder and asked your name, you genuinely forgot questions of that sort required answers. And anyway you didn’t know the answer. You thought they were offering you a dog and you shook your head then closed your eyes again.
Early morning thick winter morning on Buchanan Street, barely light, puddles iced, cracking with the wheels of wagons coming to unload, engines left running, diesel fumes. Off the back of a low-loader, the world arrives in a large cardboard box: ‘Main Bulk,’ ‘Fragile,’ and ‘This Way Up,’ in great big red letters all over the sides. Ah, but some fucker’s ignored the instructions, some stupid fucker’s put the whole damn world upside down.