The cold bit deep, attacking a few small areas that he thought had already gone numb a long time ago. However, the pain didnít bother him; in fact he welcomed it, embraced it, and longed for it. Pain was one of the few feelings that he still possessed; made him feel alive.
Drip, drip. The hole in the makeshift roof of the cardboard tenements lets the rain in; self imposed water torture for the poor.
The odour of his own urine and faeces has no meaning to him anymore. He vaguely remembers caring about such matters of hygiene, but that was when he was able to shower in the hostel, too old now. That was before his clothes became an old blanket and some black bin bags taped around his legs. It became an easier method of waterproofing.
Forgotten and lost.
The low mist created a false ceiling on the bridge that he called home; Illuminated by the big yellow M of the McDonalds above him, an alter to the god of gluttony. How he yearned to be a follower, be blessed with the delicacy of the fast food that others so readily dismiss, but all he can manage is a booking for an evening table with the rats at Restaurant Garbage.
If only he could raise himself in the morning to walk the short distance to be counted as one of the chosen few who embark upon a career of star gathering. He canít remember the last time he could walk let alone what qualifications he had earned. Qualified in life most would say. A higher education paid for in blood, sweat, and tears. Anyway, what good is a law degree when the manager of a fast foot joint canít see past the dirt and the smell?
Better times. Children sit at the table; Big Mac, Large Fries, and Strawberry Milkshake. Smiling faces, laughter, treachery, and misery.
His calloused fingers fumbled with the cap on the bottle of Strongbow; this one tastes as much like whiskey as the bottle of sherry that he had some other day that he canít rightly put a finger on. He canít even remember who brings him his necessary two litres of liquid every day.
They say that in the city you are only ever four feet from a rat, Bill shared his bed with them, shared his food with them, and provided food for them. His toes on his left foot were gone, eaten last winter while he slept. He never noticed, never cared.
He thinks about when his face was clean shaven, thinks about when his hair was short, tidy, and kempt. He sees his matted beard staring back at him from the reflection in the puddle. He can only presume that the stranger studying his bloodshot eyes, is himself; there is no one else with him, hasnít been since that night Reg died; A cold night with no body to keep him company than a dead one.
He tries to speak to himself, tries to engage himself in meaningful conversation. He hasnít spoken for three years. ďHu Huh heh Hey Pu Par Pee PeterÖ youcanseeÖ my house from huh hee here.Ē
He cried as the sound of his own voice sung in the cold starless night, reverberated through his thug damaged ears. He thought about the family that abandoned him. His last thought.
As we all stood at the family plot, together for the first time in ten years, watching my father being lowered into the ground. I wondered for whom it was that these people were crying for; it certainly wasnít the man we had let live out the rest of his life on the street. And for the first time, but too late, I felt guilt to the core of me being.
All I ever wanted was for my father to love me. All he ever wanted was for my mother to love him. All she ever wanted was for him to stop drinking. All he ever wanted was for his daughter to be able to love him. All she ever wanted was to be there. Where was the god of that McDonalds sign the night she died? All we ever wanted was to be a family.