Streams of warmth erupt happily from passersby. They talk amongst them selves, they don’t notice me, or at least pretend not to. Not me. I sit here cold, waiting for the jingle of metal to echo in my paper cup. It’s going to be a long night.
There’s a frost forming, the pavement has already started to glisten. It seems that everything reminds me of her lately; but I don’t want to think about that. I know my life isn’t perfect and neither am I. I’ve always tried to do the right thing; but I guess somewhere down the line I got it wrong. I love her, but I don’t want to think about that now. I’ve done things I’m not proud of, things I regret. I’ve stolen, but never much, only enough to get me through. It was fun in the beginning, exciting, there’s a buzz. You know it’s a bad idea, everyone does, but it’s not enough to stop you. It’s a drug, it pumps through your veins, rewires your inner workings changing them to something else. Like everything in life the excitement passes, it becomes routine, the buzz gets replaced. It happened much faster for her. That was my fault. She wasn’t always like what she became in the end, but I don’t want to think about that right now. I know I’ve made mistakes, but I like to think I can change. Sometimes I even believe it. I hear a jingle, but she passes before I can say thank you, I always say thank you. She didn’t need to help me. Perhaps she shouldn’t. I like to think I can change, all I need is a chance. The right set of circumstances. It’s this thought that ushers me to sleep each night, it’s gone in the morning, lost like my dreams.
The cold doesn’t bother me anymore, not like it use to when I was kid. Everything seemed so much simpler back then; I wanted to be a footballer, but what kid doesn’t. That thought still makes me smile. Sometimes I pretend that a version of me is out there, on a pitch, kicking a ball. No one else is there, I don’t need there to be, I can imagine the cheering and applause as the ball goes in the back of the net. I stop to look around, heat rising from my body. It’s a nice thought. I told her about it once, I don’t think she was listening but that wasn’t the point. I was never a bad kid, sure I got in trouble from time to time. It was always for silly things, I liked to talk in class, I told the other boys jokes. I was funny. I like making people laugh it’s how you get them to like you. How does the saying go; laughter cures all, maybe I just need a good joke. My favourite always was: two muffins are in an oven. The first one says “it sure is hot in here” and the other reply’s “holy crap a talkin’ muffin.” It’s simple and childish I know, but it makes me laugh every time. A friend told me that one, I wonder what happened to him. What would he think if he saw me now.
What always bothered me and still does I guess; is the way people look at you. Whenever I walk past someone in the street. It’s only for a second, but there’s a momentary stare, your eyes meet. They quickly look away, strait ahead or down at the ground anywhere to avoid eye contact, hands clutching a bag or firmly in pockets rapped around belongings. I know what there’re thinking, but I would never. I’m not that man. I don’t do those things. That’s for other people. Not me.
As much as I try, she’s always there nestled away at the back of my mind waiting for her chance to slip into my thoughts. Sometimes it’s a comfort, but not tonight. The wind is getting cooler. It’s less busy now, families have returned home. I remember when we first met. I had my own flat then. It wasn’t big, but it was comfy and warm. You could see the park from the window. That’s where I found her, if she’d only waited. Maybe I could have helped, done something. I don’t know maybe it would have been worse, being there watching it happen. I don’t like the thought of her being alone. I like to think of the first day we met. She was the sister of my best friend. We don’t speak anymore; I don’t blame him, not after what I did to her. I should have told her no, I don’t know why I didn’t, but we always shared everything. I don’t like to think about it. She was beautiful, so much energy. We would talk for hours. Never about anything important, just silly things. I liked to make her laugh. That’s how I imagine her, before all this happened. I miss that flat and the view of the park from the window. We would always meet there after we’d got enough to get us through, It’s easier on your own. People feel more sorry for you.
I like to imagine my pitch, she’s there now. She’s taken a seat in the stands. I can hear her cheer and applause, she smiles as the steam rises from my body. My paper cup jingles, that’s enough. Thank you.