Glimpse

On my way to work there is a large four level apartment block.

It epitomises leaky building.

It is mono-clad, with no eaves. It has balconies, none of which are level despite being subsequently reinforced by tacked on pieces of 2 by 4 timber. The walls are streaked with black mouldering water stains down the side.

It has been empty for months.

Not surprisingly this is news that seems to have quickly spread amongst the homeless community. The building is situated on a slope with a large vacant area underneath, which is now furnished with a couch, a shopping trolley and several other items obscured by pillars and general lack of light.

On my daily wander to work I see more homeless people now, but still greet them with a cheerful hello. The few occasions I carry loose change, I pass it on.

I am always intrigued by the seemingly happy demeanour of homeless folk, despite literally having hit rock bottom. I can’t imagine what homelessness is like, having to beg for money, having nowhere dry to sleep, owning only what you can carry, while everyone around you gives you a look of disdain, or even worse, ignores you completely as they rush about with their Starbucks Venti. I like to think, even without otherwise assisting, a friendly hello might just make a difference to their day.

As I head off to work, once again walking past the building of despair, I see a young couple in their early 20s ahead of me. They appear well-dressed. He’s wearing a pair of jeans actually pulled up to his waist, and she has matching jeans and a sleek black jacket. Their body language is familiar, and that of any affectionate couple about to part ways as they head off to work. As she waves goodbye and continues on up the hill, he too turns around heading the opposite direction.

He makes a beeline directly towards the abandoned apartment block, following a well-trodden path quickly disappearing into the damp darkness.

I wasn’t expecting that.

I briskly continue walking up the hill in a rush to get to work, and soon catch up to the young woman. From the distance she and her friend looked like any other couple on their daily commute to work. Up close it’s apparent something is wrong. Her pale blue jeans are frayed and wet around the bottom. They’re dirty with the look of someone who just spent the night on the ground. Her wavy brown hair is dull, knotted and has probably not been washed in over a week. Her jacket is stained.

She’s walking slowly. Too slowly. Where ever she’s going, she’s in no hurry to get there. I’d like to think she’s just heading out for some juice and a couple of pies for breakfast, but I suspect that reality is probably more harsh.

How did those two end up under a rotting, possibly even condemned, apartment complex? A broken family? An unpaid debt? I don’t know. It’s a glimpse into a world very different from my own. But, it’s a world differentiated by only a few bad decisions.

I make it to work, take off my jacket and proceed to brew myself a hot pot of tea, before dealing to the tasks at hand. As I immerse myself in fixing a failed build that glimpse soon disappears.

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