“Here you go buddy,” the man said as he dropped a dollar in Paul’s empty coffee cup next to him.
This was the third person that gave him money since he had been sitting in the archway in front of the empty building. It hadn’t been empty that long, but the doorway looked like it had been abandoned for decades. It smelled like it too, but that wasn’t much different than the rest of the downtown area. He wasn’t sure if he should be offended or not. Apparently he looked like a homeless person.
He didn’t consider himself homeless, but the term did fit since he technically didn’t have a home. He was twenty-three years old and had been out of his mother’s house for nearly seven years. As much as he needed food and shelter, he couldn’t bring himself to go back to her. He wasn’t even sure she
It’s funny how things sneak up on you. Five years ago when he joined the military his life had been pretty good. He had a decent job and a decent girlfriend although she left shortly thereafter. The military wasn’t a good fit for him. He hated structure and authority. If he was ordered to do something he was likely to do the complete opposite regardless of what might happen. Despite that he made it through basic training and tech school relatively well.
His troubles really started to manifest once he got stationed. His new boss was a vindictive megalomaniac and Paul hated him. He had become very angry and very depressed. That is when he began to drink. It started slowly at first. Sometimes he would drink at the end of the day to unwind. He would drink on the weekends while hanging out with his friends. Before long it was every night. He knew he was drinking often, but he didn’t see anything wrong with it. No one ever told him that he had a problem. If he was honest with himself he knew that an intervention wouldn’t have worked anyway. With his personality he would have drank more out of spite. It was really beginning to impact his life. The reason he began drinking was depression, but he was more depressed than ever.
He always had anger issues. If those issues were waves that crashed on the shore with times of calm in-between, when he drank those waves became tsunamis. He knew it bothered his friends and roommates, but he couldn’t stop himself.
Two weeks ago he passed out at his roommates’ party. He still wasn’t sure exactly what he did, but he woke up on the lawn with all of his stuff out there with him. He was told very clearly that he wasn’t welcome anymore. The next several days he had been going from friend to friend, at least the ones that would have him, staying for a night or two and sleeping on the couch. He quit drinking. In part because he knew it was the best thing for him but mostly because he couldn’t afford it any more since he had no job and no roommates to mooch off of. He had spent the last two days and nights sitting and sleeping under this archway. The police had shooed him away once but they rarely patrolled this area so he just came back.
He sat there lost in thought when she came and knelt beside him.
“Hi,” she said.
“Um, hi,” Paul replied tentatively.
“My name is Mary.”
“My name is Paul,” he replied still not sure why she was talking to him.
“I really hate to be presumptuous, but I have seen you here for the last couple of days. I was wondering if I could buy you some lunch.”
“I don’t need a handout,” Paul replied a little more forcefully than he should have.
“This isn’t a handout. A few years ago I was sitting under this same archway and someone helped me get some hot food and helped me find a job. I would like to offer the same to you.”
Paul was very skeptical. Why would some random stranger want to help him? There must be some sort of catch. Paul was starving however and decided it was worth the gamble to get some warm food in his stomach.
“Okay, I guess so,” Paul replied.
“Great. My car is right over there.”
Paul followed her and got in the car. He wasn’t sure if he was being a little paranoid, but something seemed off about the car. He just couldn’t put his finger on it. He decided it was nothing. He was hungry.
“Where would you like to eat?”
“Doesn’t really matter to me,” Paul replied.
“Do you like Mexican food?”
“Yeah, it’s my favorite,” Paul said getting a little more excited. His stomach growled knowing that it was getting full soon.
“Great. I know this great place a few miles from here. It is the best in the city.”
A few minutes later she pulled into a parking lot. Paul looked around but all he saw was a big empty parking lot and a dilapidated old building.
“Where are we? There is no restaurant here.”
“Sure there is. Its right over there,” She said pointing to the right.
“I don’t see it,” Paul said as he turned to look in that direction.
If only he hadn’t been so desperate to have a good meal he might not have turned his head and he might have seen her coming at him with a drug filled syringe. If only he hadn’t been so destitute he wouldn’t have felt he had no choice but to get in that car. If only he hadn’t been such a drunk he might not have made so many people hate him and he would still have a place to live. If only he hadn’t been so defiant he might still be alive.
P.S. That's me.