I catch the sunrise over the bridge every morning before I sit down by the subway. It’s not because I particularly enjoy sunrises or because I somehow find comfort in them. It’s just on my way. That’s it. I live on the other side of the bridge and since most workers get up early, I also have to get up early. I try to hurry over. For some reason it’s easier to imagine us without a home. It’s within the very term homeless. It does happen that someone recognizes me and when they do, they’ll never again share a few coins. The magic is gone. I’m no longer just that homeless man who sits there waiting for them when they go to work, and still waits for them when they go home.
Early winter mornings are the worst. They are windy. A buddy told me to be hit with a wind is to feel alive, but that’s not true. For me it’s the opposite. I turn off. My legs weaken, my arms numb and my body resets. Sometimes I collapse. Right there on the bridge. I wake up to someone telling me to go home or if I’m in the way; to a cyclist ringing his bell. It has happened to me outside of the subway too, but there’s no wind there. I’m just growing tired.
I sit down and thousands of busy workers walk past me. I have my regulars who stop to ask how I’m doing, give me a few coins and maybe even an apple. It’s important to act respectfully. I see other people harass every by-walker, with no shame. They grab the jackets, throw out their hands and if they won’t give them any money, they say something mean. I’d never do such a thing. I put myself in this position. It took me a long time to force myself to sit here. I must do something with my life, I thought. This is my life. No one else should pay. But then, survival kicks in. I’m rummaging through garbage and I’m stealing water from garden-hoses, if I find any and dare to trespass. I became hostile.
I frightened a boy. Yes I did. I probably scarred him for life. It was winter last year. Swedish winter. So it was dark. Not complete, since the snow reflects any kind of moonlight, but the moon was clouded, so close to complete darkness. I looked for a place to sleep that wasn’t too cold. I noticed a storage-room was open and I sneaked inside. I lay down by the radiator and slept for an hour or so. The boy came in and put his hand on me. I screamed at him, cursed him and shoved him. It was a defense-mechanism. I guess I was even more scared than he was. He ran and I ran. That moment will probably affect him for the rest of his life. The next time he’ll see a homeless man he’ll think back on that, on me. Decades later he’ll mumble something when the next beggar asks him for a coin and walk past him. I did that.
Since then I never trespass. Well, never when a car is there. I have trespassed, I confess, even now when I’m sleeping in a cellar I’m trespassing every day. No one cares, luckily.
The first years on the streets I desperately tried to reconcile with my brother. He’s the only family I have left and also the only person I know who owns a house. I owe him. He’s paid for a lot. I took his money and bought my way out of debts. But then I slipped again and came crawling back to him. Again and again. Every time I felt that this time, this is when I hit the jackpot. But I never did. He finally cut me off. Anyway, maybe two years ago, I sat outside his home. I hadn’t showered or changed clothes in a while. It was Christmas. I heard the songs play. The same songs my brother and I sang way back, so I figured I wouldn’t be too much of a burden if I rang the doorbell and reminded him of the good times we shared. His wife Greta opened and told me she’d call the cops. I yelled for him, but he never came. I was mad at the time, but I’m fine now. I understand. I am what he’s trying to leave behind. I’m the past. He has his family, a family which brings him smiles and joy. I’m not a part of it anymore. I’m the clouds over the only thing shining in the dark, dark Swedish winter. He wanted me to leave.
That was a long time ago, it seems. I never saw him back then, I just heard him. Same with his kids, I just heard them. Two girls. It took them ten minutes to start the music again. Often I fantasize about the future, ten years from now, when I can walk in there. I have bought presents for the girls and I sit down at the table. I’d explain something about a present, his kids would laugh and I’d quickly look up and my brother and I would share a moment. It wouldn’t be with words just a thought we both had at the same time, like ‘Can you believe we once were kids at the Christmas table?’ That would be something.
I’m tired. They share fewer coins, fewer apples, fewer anything. There’s a wind. I turn left towards the ocean where it comes from and I feel it smiling at me. Soon, it calls. I used to brace myself. I used to turn right and look at the sunrise when the wind hit me. But I’m no coward. I want to face it. I got nothing today. Nothing. And while I contemplated when, not if, the wind would get me I walked to my brother’s house and sat down in the snow. His car isn’t home so I have to stay awake. I don’t know if it was instinctively or what, and I know the probability of that fantasy happening is close to zero, but all the ‘what-if’s’ come down to this. It ends up with me in the snow by his mailbox. I fall asleep.
When I wake up his car is there. He’s home. His footprints are in the snow. He has stopped by me. He didn’t wake me up. He left me here. Me and my fantasy. I might as well shut my eyes and think of fairy-tales. How we used to be brothers. How we one time, before I messed up, were seated at the same dinner table. But also about how I would be invited to their home. I’d have a suit and a tie and I’d smell of perfume; cinnamon and musk. I’d bring presents and eat with fork and knife.
I love you. And you’ll love me back. You’ll hug me and we’ll tell stories. We’ll laugh. You’ll think about me. About us. About family. And you will not walk past me, my brother, that day.