THE VIEW FROM BELOW
Dark dawns are the start of the stranger’s days. As he expects, the sky progresses from grey to more grey. The city wakes slowly, blending acai and kale in tastefully decayed cafes. He struggles to understand the appeal - he had had enough decay to last a lifetime. How long had it been since he’d had enough coins to buy a coffee? Next to his face, the sleeping bag seeps stuffing onto the footpath, specks of fluff amongst scattered cigarette butts. As he rises, his spine uncomfortably digging into the concrete, the dog is alert, ears unfolding into sharp triangles. It sniffs the coffee, vomit and icy morning air. He turns to face the incoming tourists and office workers and unfolds his sign:
He sits, a polystyrene cup in front of him, a few stray coins at the bottom to prove he isn’t entirely desperate. It’s like this every day. Middle aged couples with cameras strung around their necks and balding businessmen with smartphones to their ears filter through in a mottled haze. Those who don’t ignore him glance and turn away almost simultaneously. Some try to look sympathetic, but he sees through their façade and finds disgust. He stares at the concrete to save them the trouble.
He lifts his head to see a little girl toddling towards him. Her father pulls her back. She points at the cup, tugging at his sleeve. ‘Daddy…’ she whines, still pointing. He knows all too well that Daddy is too busy sizing up the stranger with the straggly beard, the weather-beaten jacket, the baggy pants that have spent too much time dusting too many benches. The father gives one more condescending look at the stranger, grasps the girl’s hand and hurries her away.
He used to be one of them. He used to walk along this same street to go to a job he no longer had. Go back to a house he no longer owned. Come home to a family that was no longer there. How did he get here, reduced to an anonymous eyesore on the street? The dog lays down, its head between its paws.
Two polished black boots appear in front of him. He looks up and finds a man with a lanyard around his neck, the antenna of a radio sticking out of the pocket on his pants.
‘You need to move along, sir,’ he spits, overflowing with sarcasm. The dog cowers and hides, ears alert. As he walks away, the stranger packs his sleeping bag into...