Homes, Brothers and Fantasies by Tobias Haglund

typewriter

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.

 

Tobias Haglund

15 thoughts on “Homes, Brothers and Fantasies by Tobias Haglund

    • Thank you, Diane. I agree. I don’t know what’s going on with me these days I only write these sad commentaries on society. I must better myself. Perhaps with a light comedy. And some biscuits. ATVB my friend
      Tobias

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  1. Such a lot of subtlety in this piece. When I first read it I recall commenting that I had a nagging doubt that it needed to be harsher – I was wrong in that assessment as I think the hints of the past and the questions left unanswered give this story a lot of weight and power. Nicely done. Cheers, Nik

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Nik. I’m glad you were wrong, but don’t hesitate to harsh it up when opportunity calls for it. It’s tricky to write these characters. How much does he dwell in the past? Which incidents linger? I figured he wouldn’t really nag the mess that got him therr other than to acknowledge it was his own faulty. Anyway, thanks! Also thanks for saying this piece changed your assessment. That really made me happy!
      ATVB my friend
      Tobbe

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  2. To be estranged from family members is probably a lot more common than we would know. Although you chose not to reveal the reasons for your narrator’s decline from given standards, you’ve given us an idea of the thoughts that must haunt his listless mind. Thanks Tobias.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Richard, for the read and for the thoughtful comment. I agree with your assessment, I think it’s more common. Not all are homeless of course, but I can’t help but thinking they would look back on “simpler” times. Thanks.
      ATVB my friend
      Tobias

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    • Thank you, James. I agree with your assessment. The story was more about the present than anything else. Obviously he dwelt in the memories of happier times, but the story was about coping – and he couldn’t, just like you said. ATVB my friend
      Tobias

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  3. Hi Tobias, my comment is not so much on story but process. Oh, story was to your usual excellent standard by the way.
    I was looking back at my initial comments and I noticed your evolving feelings on this story. To me, this shows what an ethic and pride you have in everything that you do. This is a mind-set that I am sure will bring you every success on whatever you choose to do.
    Hugh

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah yes. You are very correct. I also looked back on the notes and comments. I was very pessimistic, wasn’t I? I have you to thank for the turnaround on this. And also improving it. It’s actually funny reading back my notes how it changed. Thank you very much for your support, Hugh. It really is a privilege!
      ATVB my friend
      Tobias

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