Saturday, April 17, 2021

Getting Lost by Liz O'Shea

“Oh get lost you stupid bitch” he screamed at me on that awful day.
So that’s exactly what I did. I turned my back on him and my mother and left.
Now I am officially homeless, a tramp. A seller of the big issue.
I’m lucky really, I’ve got a good spot near the entrance to Tesco’s with a proper wooden seat and everything. I can just about keep dry under the awning if it’s raining softly. Of course the Tesco’s manager tries to get rid of me every day but as I am on the public street there’s not much he can do, except shout and I’m used to that .
I have two sets of friends. My Tesco’s friends and my camp friends. Tesco’s friends are mostly older women, who bring me hot coffee and buns. It’s usually men who throw money at me and won’t look me in the eyes. But I need the money so I just say “God bless you sir” when they do. It’s a saying I learnt from Sarah, she’s a camp friend and an old hand. She says she has been on the road for 25 years. I shuddered when she told me that. In 25 years time I want to have a house and two grown up kids and a job, maybe as a P. a fashion designer or running a beauty salon, I can’t decide which.
I imagine there will be a husband somewhere in the background but he seems to be
fairly indistinct and foggy.
When Tesco’s shut I walk the two miles to the camp which is now my home. There are about 6 of us homeless people. Four of have tents and two make do with newspaper and plastic sheeting. That’s how I was, until Sarah arrived and invited me to share her tent, its a squash but we keep each other warm. Someone always builds a fire and we all sit round with whatever food or drink we have. I don’t touch the alcohol, as in my nine months of ‘getting lost,’ I have seen the desperation it can cause. Same with drugs too.
It’s ironic really that Mums boyfriend refused to believe me when I told him that when the party was raided I was neither stoned or drunk. That’s when we had the argument but really it was just the last straw. I had resented his authority from the start, especially as Mum just seemed to hand it over to him from day one.
Anyway I had a new life now, albeit a pretty rough one. I sat warming my hands by the fire and Sarah came and sat beside me. “What’s up love” she said “Nothing, just day dreaming” “Are you thinking about your Mum”? “No” I lied. We had had this conversation before. Sarah was always trying to get me to ring Mum, saying how worried she must be but I couldn’t forgive her for not taking my side and for all I knew, she was pleased to be alone with what’s his face and not missing me. That night
I did feel sad but what could I do.?
I was at my usual place outside Tesco’s the following morning when the manager came out for his daily rant. “We don’t want your sort here, our customer don’t need to see the likes of you, you lazy slag, why don’t you go and get a job.”I was deaf to it and just turned inwards until he went back to the shop again. Except today for some reason I felt like crying. It started to rain about midday and as the wind was blowing into me I got soaked. My usual old ladies obviously stayed at home, so by the time evening came I was shivering, miserable and very hungry.
As I approached the camp, the thought of the warm fire spurred me to a quicker pace and I made the last few metres very quickly. The fire was blazing and everyone was chatting animatedly. Sarah had her back to me and a figure was sitting in my usual seat. I felt annoyed and rushed up intending to oust the person from my place double quick. As I approached the figure the words died on my lips and my heart gave a great lurch. “Mum, is that you Mum?” I stumbled forward and was clasped in her arms.
“Oh thank God I’ve found you at last Tasha, Oh love I been looking for you since the day you left, are you alright, why didn’t you phone, what have you been doing ?” The questions tumbled out of her not waiting for an answer, I couldn’t speak anyway. I just cried and cried. She made me sit down between her and Sarah and fed me hot coffee and sausage rolls. I felt a little calmer then and she told me she had asked the boyfriend to leave a week after me, when he had seemed to be positively triumphant about me
going , ‘like he had been planning it all along’, she said.
“How did you find me Mum” I asked at last. Mum turned to Sarah “ It was this lady who rang me today and of course I drove straight here “. I looked at Sarah not knowing whether to be angry or grateful.
The upshot is that I am back home with Mum now and tomorrow I start a new job with the local council. It’s not the most exciting job ever but my secret plan is to get myself into a position where I can really help all those big issues, homeless people, like Sarah.
Mum did offer her a home with us but she refused. I think she was scared to be indoors, maybe feeling shut in by a house. I try to visit her once a week and so far I have been able to keep track of her but I do worry she will “get lost” permanently.​

© Liz O'Shea

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