A Soldiers Verse

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Forgotten Tragedy (Short story about a poem)

The sun filters through the empty windows of the abandoned town house in which I had found refuge from the previous nights chill.
The lingering dust floating in the air dances along the shards of light, mixing with the smoke from my cigarette, creating a soundless ballet, effortlessly floating in the still morning air.

I drop the butt on the rough wooden floor and squash it under the thin sole of my worn sneaker. Peering out of the window, I watch the world outside passing by.
People rushing this way and that, almost as random as the gentle dance of my cigarette smoke, yet with the obvious patterns and timings of a mechanical city.

From the top floor of the highest skyscraper, to the lowest depths of the underground, people exist in their own worlds. Unaware of each others existence until…
The door behind me creaks on its hinges as it hangs wearily from its frame. The house is beginning to wake.
Soon there will be other squatters moving about through the halls looking for somewhere to stay.
I make my way outside into the street, unnoticed by the body lying near the doorway.

The sun feels warm and fresh on my face. The cool breeze soothing the bite from the suns heat.
Somewhere in the distance a car horn toots and people start shouting. It's starting early today.
As freely as people are moving about the city, so to are their tempers and emotions.
It's the traffic, the congestion, everybody in a hurry and no body willing to let up, to give a little.
It's such a shame.

I pull my coat a little tighter and stuff my hands in my pockets as I head off down the street.
The only person aware of my existence, the person that bumped into me because he wasn't looking at where he was going. Too busy with his mobile phone to notice what was around him. He doesn't notice me for long, I slip back into anonymity.

I'm hungry. I've been walking for most of the morning and haven't eaten yet.
I walk past a few cafés and savour the aroma leaking from their shop fronts.
The mixture of coffee, toast and croissants dancing on the breeze, filling my nostrils with their delicious scent and my stomach with desire.

There's a bin in an alleyway behind one of the cafés where I just saw some one throwing a box of stuff in it. By the looks of it I may be eating something today.
My mouth waters as I approach the bin, the box is sticking out of the top perfectly.
Without a break in my stride I reach for the box and swiftly free it from the confines of the bin and briskly walk down the alleyway very pleased with myself.

I find a nice quiet spot in another alley where I can go through the contents of my prize without being disturbed by the other street dwellers.
It looks like I've hit the jack pot today. A few sticks of celery, two broken carrots, bruised bananas and a loaf of mouldy bread.
It's a good thing that I'm not allergic to penicillin, I chuckle to myself.

From where I'm sitting I can see a few other street dwellers rummaging through various rubbish bins and trash piles.
I feel sorry for them.
I call them over to join in on my feast.
They're reluctant at first, but when they see my find and realise that I mean no harm they soon settle in and help themselves to my feast.
One of them gives me a familiar look and makes a gesture with his hand.
"Looks like you could do with a hit." His voice slightly muffled by the banana and bread he's crammed in.
How could I refuse? Anything to make me feel better than I already do.
Better than feeling alone and unknown, unwanted and unseen.
He hands me a small bundle. "Don't use it all at once." He says with a smile.

Now I know where I've seen him before!
Through the clouds in my mind his figure takes shape. Handing me this bundle on countless occasions before.
I smile a little at remembering his past kindness. Whenever I've felt down, he always seems to be there. With his bundle of happiness and a kind face.
Now he's back again, with that same kind face, the bundle of white powder and advice on how to take.

He's the only one who sees me, the only one who knows that I'm there. I take the bundle from him and hide it in my pocket.
I'll save it for now. Don't want to waste it.
We finish our feast and talk for a while. One of them pulls out a packet of cigarettes he found earlier and offers them around.
About two or three of them were wet where the previous owner had spilled something on them or dropped them in the gutter. Apart from that the pack was almost full… I wish I had that kind of money to be able to throw away a perfectly good pack of cigarettes just because a couple were wet.
I took a few. Save some for later, smoke one now. Be sociable. After all, it's the most amount of human contact I've had for almost a week. Yet by my own choice.
We talk on into the afternoon. The suns glare becomes a soft glow as it starts to set behind the high rises. It's time to move on. I retrace my steps from my travels through the day. Hoping the town house that I slept in last night wasn't over occupied by the time I got back there.

I wandered past the cafés and their beautiful aroma of evening meals, wine and coffee. I settle on a bench across the road from three cafés situated side by side.
I light a cigarette and let the smoke roll around in my mouth before inhaling and letting it out slowly, creating again, another random ballet of weightlessness on the breeze.

Two of the patrons sitting at one of the outdoor tables at the farthest café notice me smoking and reach for their own packets.
It's amazing how often this happens. You wouldn't even think about it if you never saw it.
Like sitting in a cinema watching a movie and halfway through one of the characters lights up a cigarette. You can tell who most of the smokers are by their fidgeting and the occasional moan of disappointment at not being able to light one themselves.

Another couple sitting about two tables down from the smokers get up and move inside, shooting looks of disgust over their shoulders and complaining between themselves as they do so.
How rude some people can be. The smoke wasn't even blowing in their direction. In point of fact it was blowing in the opposite direction. Which is why the smokers chose that particular table to begin with. They were being courteous.
The other two obviously didn't notice the big man sitting behind them puffing on what looked to be a Cuban.
How petty those people must be. Criticising the thoughtful and ignoring the blatant.
No wonder society is going down the drain.
Too many people are wrapped up in their own self importance to care about anything good that's left.

I move on down the street, I've lingered here for too long people are starting to stare and point. The last thing I want is fore some one to make a fuss.
I like walking anyway. It makes me feel as if I'm going some where, even though I have no destination.
I did have one once, when I was younger, when I had people who loved me. But that was before… Before it all happened.
Now I'm just a lost, single, solitary being, living some how from day to day.
This small package making it bearable.

The package…

I make my way back to the town house where I stayed the night before. The street lights were starting to come on as the sun sunk lower behind the tall buildings, every now and then peeking through a gap in the buildings where some one forgot to block the view.

There's a light on in my town house, a faint flicker of a candle or some other flame in the front room. That's ok, my room is in the back. I move quietly not wanting to disturb or startle the new occupant.
I slip through the open doorway and pad my way down the hall to the room I was in before.
I think there's some one in there. I can hear their breathing.
I peek through the crack in the open door. There IS some one in there. He's curled up in a ball at the far end of the room.
I can't stay here.

I make my way back outside and sit on the step in front of the door. The cold of the concrete step piercing through the denim of my jeans making me shiver. I put my hands in my coat pockets to keep me warm and feel something…
My package. It's still there.
Slowly I take it out of my pocket and stare at it for a while before unwrapping it.
The guy thought of everything. Spoon, powder, needle, syringe. Even a baby Bic lighter to complete the set.
I hide myself behind the low stone fence in front of the town house and set to work.
There's a lot of powder in this one. It should be good.
I set myself up and hold the lighter under the spoon. It doesn't take long for the powder to melt. My hands are trembling with anticipation as I suck the warm liquid into the syringe.
I find a good vein on my arm and force the needle through my skin. The plunger goes down easily and I feel the liquid streaming through my veins.
My head starts to spin, I feel lighter than air.
I look down, all the powder is gone. What was it the guy had said? Don't use it all at once? Oh well, too late now. I'll just have to ride it out, like I always do.
I feel as light as a feather. As if I could be taken any where by the faintest breeze.
I float over the small stone wall and effortlessly glide down the street.
The lights look different, they have a warmer glow than usual.
The light poles seem to sway gently in the breeze as the lights atop their masts glow and shine warmly for me as I glide down the street.

I'm a leaf on the wind as I dance and twirl on the evening breeze. Every so often a car would pass me, and the headlights, so dazzling and bright, would soar past and dance into the distance melting from white to red.
Some people start to point and stare at me. Maybe because of my weightless grace as I float past, may be out of jealousy because they wish they could be as care free as I am right now.
It makes no difference. I never want to cause a fuss so I float on by and find some where to rest for the night.
I curl up at the base of one of the swaying street lights. The warm glow of its light heating my heart but not my body. I can't believe the hit is still going. This sure is a good batch.
Not good enough to keep we warm though. I shiver in the cold night air as I pull my coat around me… My coat, it's not there.
I must have left it at the town house when I took the hit. Well it's not that cold tonight. Is it?
I drift off to sleep, under my street light, dreaming of the beach and the warm summer breeze. It wasn't that long ago.
The last wish I make before slipping away, is wishing that I was warm and that I had never run away.

There was already a small crowd gathering by the time we got there. It was still early, yet there were quite a few people out for this time of morning.
Mostly curious passers by wanting a better view of what was going on. One man was performing CPR when we arrived. We told him to continue while we set ourselves up and tried to find out what had happened.
One look at the limp and lifeless body and I already knew. I gave my co-worker a knowing look and we set about doing our job.
The needle was still in her arm and her lips and ears were blue. No amount of CPR would ever bring her back from where she was now.
Somewhere in the crowd I could hear a woman sobbing. A few of the other onlookers muttered something about going and checking on their own children and left.
That's when my co-worker caught my attention. A tear was running down his face.
" I know this one," he choked out, "she's only 15, used to live two doors down from me before she disappeared. Raped by her teacher's what her mother told me. She asked me to keep an eye out for her. That was three months ago. Well…" He tried his best to collect himself. "It's her sweet sixteen in two days." He sobbed.
We lifted her onto the stretcher trolley and drew a sheet over her body and face. As the trolley clattered down the gutter her lifeless arm slipped from the trolley and dangled limply from the stretcher. A few people gasped and some one started to cry. My co-worker doing his best to hold his tears back for now.
Such a tragedy. A lonely child, so cold and blue, lying in the street covered in the morning dew.
If only some one had told her, if only she knew, that she was never alone. She had support but couldn't see through the walls that she had built in her mind.
It's sad how some one could be forgotten so easily on the streets of the city.

By: Heath G. Schofield.
Based on the poem "City Streets Are Forgetful Places" by the same author.

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