Sometime last month, he turned an year older. It was his birthday. He is not sure of the exact date. He is not sure how old he was turning. Maybe 18 or 19. He didn’t celebrate his birthday. He didn’t even remember it was his birthday. He doesn’t care much about birthdays. He is more concerned about being alive. Surviving.
His birthday was probably a normal day. He probably woke up at around 5;30AM as usual. He folded the blanket he wraps himself in at night. He has had the blanket for over two years. Its hard to tell ts original colour. Its grey and brown. Its old and tattered. He found it in a garbage truck. To this day he still wonders who would throw away such a prized possession. But he is grateful to the previous owner whoever he or she is. He has had the blanket when nights were cold and when nights were warm. The blanket has been with him in both the dry and rainy nights . He almost broke his arm last year guarding it from thieving colleagues. Life without it would be unbearable.
On his birthday, he probably hid the blanket in the usual place- under a concrete bench in the park. He had spent the night in a verandah. Tats where he spends most nights. When it’s warm , when it’s cold. That’s home. Out in the cold.
Washing his face in the mornings is foreign. So is brushing his teeth. Those are luxuries for the privileged. He probably lit a half smoked cigarette to drive away the cold.
Most mornings he rushes to some near by shops and businesses to mop the floors for a few coins. If he is early enough, he arrives there before his competitors. The owners of the businesses do not let him inside the business area. A boy of his nature can not be trusted to resist temptation. They pay him to sweep or mop the verandahs and corridors outside. Some pay him to empty trash bins. As long as they pay, he does whatever asked of him. On his birthday, he was probably lucky to beat his competitors.
The cleaning jobs do not take long. Within half an hour he is done.
The place is usually flocking with his competitors, so there is little if any possibility of a second job. After pocketing is pay, he moves to find other tasks. The most common task is to transport stuff on his back. Mostly he carries supplies and items for sale as instructed by his customers. The weight varies. At times its very heavy, at times its manageable. Rarely does he walk away unable to do whatever asked of him. Once in a while -courtesy of the devil- he pockets a sample of whatever he is carrying hoping he won’t be noticed and lynched. He transports whatever needs to be transported till he can find no more. At around 10:00 AM, there is not much work for him. The morning routine has made him strong and handy. It has made him fit. Transformed him into a beast of burden. His strength comes from misery.
By 10:00am his earnings can buy him some breakfast. He doesn’t eat from trash bins. He is past that. He works to avoid that. His breakfast is usually porridge and chapati (or ugali). He doesn’t care about balancing his diets. He only fills his stomach. Its a task in its own right. On his birthday it was no different.
After stuffing himself, he pays his peddler a visit. A blunt enables him to carry on. It conceals reality. Reality that he is hopeless.(according to him.) On a lucky day he is hired by garbage collectors to help in the trucks. He might have been lucky on his birthday. They move around in the truck through estates collecting trash. At times he finds treasure in the trash. Aboard the truck he sits perched an a mountain of waste. He doesn’t feel like he is part of it. It doesn’t lower his self esteem. He has none. He has lots of confidence though.
They go through rich, middle and low class estates. To him there is no difference. They all have houses. They all have homes. They all have trash to take out.
The collecting , sorting and dumping of garbage takes the rest of the day. It also takes all of his energy. Leaves him tired, weary and worn-out. It also leaves him with some coins.(his pay).
On his birthday he probably staggered back to the bench in the park tired. He probably bought bananas from a nearby stall. He probably spotted a mother holding her son’s hand as they walked home. He probably wondered how it felt like to have a mother. How it felt like to have a home. Be was born in the streets. Raised in the streets. His mother moved to a different town in search for a new home a long time ago. The streets are all he knows. The streets provide everything. In the streets he is at home. He doubts he will ever find another home. But it doesn’t bother him though. He lives for the moment. Without a past. Without a future. To him everyday is a different day. Everyday is new day. A birthday.
soundtrack: Stop this train– John Mayer