6. Eye Contact: Write about two people seeing each other for the first time.
He always felt guilty about homeless people. He gave to numerous charities, one of which was for homeless people, and yet when he saw them in the street he still felt guilty. For every person he gave change to there was another that he didn’t – and there seemed to be more and more of them nowadays. Every couple of yards. He also mentally admonished himself for referring to them as “them”. They were people too, he reminded himself.
Although he gave to homeless people, and would make polite small talk with them as he did so, he never stopped to have a full conversation with them. That was another thing he seemed to see more and more, people crouched down to their “level”, looking pointedly sincere. He hated them. It just seemed so patronising. They seemed like the sort of people who always greeted their employees with “Hey guys, so this is the sitch…” If he were homeless, he’d spit on people like that.
One day, a not particularly special day, he saw the girl. She was sat, huddled on the street corner, her arms hugging her knees. She wasn’t looking at him, or at anyone, but at the ground. Her hair had been dyed purple once, but it was now faded, and pulled back into a scraggy bun. He pulled himself out of the thoroughfare of people and into the doorway next to hers, searching for his wallet. He never had any particular system when it came to choosing which people he gave money to and which he did not. It just depended on his mood that day. He wondered what it must be like to only have enough money to eat dependent on other people’s moods. He shook the thought away. Why did he always do this to himself? Other people never gave money to the homeless, ever, and here he was berating himself. Again. “Shut up,” he thought. “You. Are a good person.”
“Yes,” he thought. “I am.” And he turned to face the girl, a 50p in hand. He dropped the coin into an empty polystyrene cup she had sat beside her. He was about to go on his way, not wanting to wake her (if she was in fact asleep) when she suddenly looked up, staring at him. He stopped dead, his heart beating fast. Someone barged straight into him, others quickly swerved out of his way, muttering angrily. He didn’t notice. He couldn’t take his eyes off the girl. And she didn’t take hers off his. He felt as if he were under a spotlight only she could see. She seemed so intent. Intent on him, intent on staring at him. No, staring wasn’t the right word. She glared. Like she hated him. Like he was the scum of the earth. But also like she knew him. Knew him intimately. Knew his very soul. And she despised it.
He felt panicked. Frantic. What had he done? Did she know him? But he felt certain that he didn’t recognise her. Then why was she looking at him like that? Maybe he had made the ultimate faux pas – she wasn’t homeless. But she looked it. She, he hated to admit, smelled it. She even had a sleeping bag, crumpled up behind her. She was definitely homeless. Maybe she was on drugs. Maybe she was hallucinating. But he couldn’t quite believe it. Her gaze just seemed so…knowing. So arresting. He felt sure that minutes had passed. And she was still looking at him, like a wild animal. An animal that was trapped, he realised. That knew it was trapped. But was going to spend its last minutes fighting.
After what seemed like an age, he pulled himself away. He pushed his body towards his office. He was surprised to find he wasn’t late.
(Featured image from nmsu)
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