A beacon of light saved me. July 15th was the day that everything changed. It was an ordinary morning, the sun was shining but sadness clouded my mind, I was on the edge of destruction, praying for salvation. Darkness had snatched away the hope that I would one day be completely happy. I had no positive thoughts left to keep me going, I was living a pitiless life on the streets and I didn’t want to carry on. It never crossed my mind that a single moment could change the direction of your life. I thought that my miserable life was all that the fates would allow for me. But now I realise that life is a treacherous journey, you never know what will happen day by day. Life is a stream of moments. A collection of photographs. Before I met James, my photographs were black and white. My life had no purpose. But now my life is colourful. I have to keep the shadows of my past locked away to enjoy the lease of life I have been gifted. If James ever discovered the ghosts of my childhood or the insidious struggles of my young adult life, he would leave me. Just like everybody else does.
One night I slept in the ginnels behind The Slug & The Toad pub on Western Avenue. I was lucky to find somewhere cosy for the night but I knew I couldn’t stay there for too long, I needed to keep moving. It was roughly day seven on the streets. I was past the point of desperation now, I managed to get by like most homeless people do but I was hoping that luck would reach me soon. I was twenty two years old and I had never had a place that I could call home. The second the hand on the clock reached twelve on my eighteenth birthday I left the children’s home. They wouldn’t come after me; I was able to do what I wanted to do. I stayed in a few hostels but I never spent long in each one. I was at my fifth hostel when things spiralled out of control. I had been in the hostel for a week or two and one night there was a new girl who was about the same age as me, or she may have been a tiny bit older. She sat in the corner, withdrawn and lifeless. She had extremely shallow cheekbones and her ratty blonde hair was tied in a messy ponytail, I noticed that the skin around her right eye was bruising silver. Her eyes were pale green, she hardly blinked in the few moments that I watched her. I never usually introduced myself to the other girls in the hostel but pity took over my natural instinct that night, I walked over to introduce myself.
I tapped her on the shoulder.
‘Hi, I’m Erin. What’s your name?’ I waited for a response.
‘I know it seems scary in this place but it isn’t that bad once you get used to it, are you okay?’
Her eyes darted in my direction. She stepped towards me and before I had time to even process her actions, she had punched me in the face. Sharp blows continuously imprinted my cheek and she didn’t stop until someone had to pull her off me. Stunned, I walked away in silence and all of the other people in the room quickly ignored the existence of the fight. I assumed that it was something that happened frequently in hostels , but I wasn’t prepared to stick around and find out. The next morning I left. I decided that I had to go it alone, no more hostels. Ever since I have been living on the streets. I still don’t understand why that girl lashed out at me, something terrible must have happened to her before entering the hostel, not that it gives her any dignified excuse to attack me. I tried to forget about her but her troubled eyes have been carved into my memory ever since.
To be continued.