In the month after finding my family half buried in the back garden, I became homeless. I guess it was more of a choice to become homeless than most people have. I didn't much mind, really. I had sold the house and everything in it. How was I supposed to stay there after that? I'd tried, I really had. All it did was give me night terrors, and to wake up there with the feeling that someone was standing over me waiting to drain me too... I couldn't handle it. After a week of that, I decided 'fuck it', and got the house on the market as soon as possible. My parent's money, and their bills and their debts and everything else had become mine. It was way too much to lay on a teenager. The companies didn't care that I'd just had my whole life ripped out from under my feet. They just wanted me to figure out how my parents had been handling their money and get on with paying back whatever loans they'd taken out and the mortgage.
My solution to that? Sell the house, pay everything off in one go and live off what was left.
I guess that's how I ended up making friends with a guy who promised me he'd help me find somewhere to squat. I didn't entirely trust the guy. I mean, I'd been brought up in the upper middle class in Kensington of all fucking places. I wasn't exactly snobby, I just hadn't been taught that the guys you see milling around on the streets wrapped up in blankets and smelling of piss were the people to trust, y'know? But he over looked where I'd come from easily enough, so I did my best to return the favour. Easier said than done when you'd been taught that they were all there because they were lazy, or because they wanted to be, or because it was the only way they could afford their drug habit.
I learnt pretty quickly that wasn't the case, not really. Most of them were there because of some misfortune or another. The drug addicts didn't know how to be anything else. The ones I met couldn't get jobs, and it wasn't for lack of trying. I mentally apologised to them all for making assumptions about how they ended up where they were. I still half expected someone to snap and stab me or try and rob me. Another thing I learnt pretty quickly was to say nothing of where I came from. Mentioning you were from Kensington was enough to get you either hated or robbed. Or both.
A few days after this guy had promised me a squat, he came shuffling into the same homeless day centre I was in, got himself a bowl of the watery soup that was on offer that particular day and a plastic cup of water before spotting me. He gave me a toothy grin.
"Alex, mate!" he slurred loudly. He sat down at the table opposite me and looked down at the abandoned bowl of soup in front of me. "You gonna eat that?" he asked. I shook my head. The alcohol fumes on his breath were enough to make me light headed, but I didn't move. His grin stretched across his stubbled face as he pulled the bowl in front of him. I watched as he ate, patiently waiting to see if he'd remember his promise. When he was done eating, he shoved the bowls aside and washed it down with the water.
"So how're you doing, Rob?" I asked, wondering how I could bring the conversation around to my living situation. Since moving out of the house, I'd discovered sleeping in doorways did not suit me. It wasn't so much the combination of the cold and discomfort that got me - though I was hardly a fan of them - it was other people, the ones that had houses and believed the same as I used to. They saw a homeless guy sitting there minding his own business and decided it was their place to lecture them about how they shouldn't be such a lazy little shit, how dare you be homeless, it offends my poor delicate little eyes. The first couple nights I heard that, I'd wanted to beat the living crap out of them for it. Even if I'd once believed homeless people were disgusting, lazy thieves, at least I hadn't openly voiced my opinion like that, or tried to hurt them for it.
"Ehh, not bad mate, not bad. Been looking for a decent squat like I said, haven' I?" I smiled.
"Brilliant. Any luck?"
"Might be that I found somewhere that'd suit the both of us," that grin of his was back. I couldn't help but let my smile grow to match his. There was something about the fact that he had it worse than me in a lot of ways - he was an alcoholic who'd lost his job and his family to it, and his family were still alive, mind, they just hated his guts - but somehow he managed to keep smiling, even when he was sober. You just had to smile with him.
"Care to show me it later?"
"Sure mate, sure. There's already a few people there, but I think they'll be decent enough. They got rules though. Dunno if I'll like that."
"No booze or drugs in the house, mate. I won't like that one bit."
"Might do you some good, Rob," I laughed slightly. He scowled.
"Not fuckin' likely."