By Dominique Bretin
I talk to no one and no one speaks to me. I’m a thief, but what bothers me more is that I am a coward. Folding becomes easier than unfolding. My belongings are sparse and now, become more than I can carry on the Fred Meyer pushcart I stole from the parking lot. It wasn’t actually in the lot, but near some outer limits of the lot where blackberries had begun to overripen. But still, it wasn’t mine and I took it anyway. No one saw and no one cared. Now I push it through city streets, and open lots, down alleys and around the pathways of parks. Lately they have banned wheels from the park, but I do it anyway. Breaking the rules is not as bad as stealing and it’s not like I’m the only one out here breaking the rules. They pass me by on their bikes, skateboards, roller blades, and strollers; I’m just one of them. I pass by unseen. This week, it’s been quiet. Too much smoke for the general public. They have all stayed home, but I’m still out here pushing the cart. I’m not part of the census. Air quality and prevailing weather has never been a factor in considering a change in habit. It is what it is, and I accommodate. I’m a regular at Green Lake in Seattle. This helps. Strangers, regulars who run and walk and bike, or run and walk and bike their dogs and kids, know my bench—everyone needs a rest sometimes. They leave me bags. Target bags filled with blankets, jackets, shoes—not always my size, but they’ve guessed right by going larger. The socks fill in the gaps.
Sometimes they leave biscuits and food. One time—a lady who jogs, and I’ve seen her often—slowed down in front of my bench. She had two macaroons specially wrapped in cellophane in her hand. It was the morning, and unfortunately, I had my zipper open to relieve a craving. I didn’t expect her. I think it shocked her and she dropped the macaroons and kept running, only faster. There was no time to explain, but like I said, I don’t talk to anyone, so it would have to go unexplained. When you live outside, you don’t have the privacy that others have. I still see her, and when I do, I always wish she had come later. Lately, I see a lot of people wearing masks, a few like me that don’t. Maybe they should if they have family, but I don’t, and I need every ounce of air I can muster to push my cart around all day.
Once, I had a family. At first, they made excuses for me. That was alright, I guess. When that quit working they set me up with drugs not really knowing what was wrong. It was after that I started hearing the voices and the constant ringing in my ears. I didn’t like that. They didn’t either. Sometimes I thought the medicine caused it so I stopped taking it. After a few episodes involving the police they quit on me and locked the doors. I’ve done alright out here. The voices have calmed but not the ringing. I used to think I was like my mother. Kind. Maybe I still am and she’s the one that changed.
Now I don’t know who I’m like. Would I recognize myself if I met me on the street? Or would I just see what other people see as they move past me—another transient being, using up the hours in a day. They work, cook, eat, go out, buy things at Target, drive, listen to the radio, watch TV, play sports, talk, cry, laugh, get mad, make plans to be with others, or stay alone, transient in the world until their molecules are done. It all seems the same from my point of view. I just do less. And struggle more. I see a commonality in the illusion of life. I’d like to find a person I could talk to, but for right now, I push my cart in the wilderness paying close attention to the daydream in my head.
Dominique is a native of Bordeaux, France. She lives in Seattle, Washington, and has spent most of her career involved in apparel and costume design. More recently she has turned her passion for writing and holds two literary fiction certificates from the University of Washington. Two of her short stories, Sunday Brunch, and White Car, have been published in the UW Anthology. Currently, she has just finished a Literary Fiction novel, When Angels Vanish. More of her writing can be found on her website at dominiquebretin.com.