I didn’t feel the raw, frosty breeze that night; I knew it was chilly, I could see Megan's hot breath, hitting the cold air. As ever I stayed awake, keeping watch over the girl I loved. The pain in my head, had all but gone, abated, disappeared. I felt alive again, as I did all those months ago, before tragedy struck. Laying at the entrance to the underground, we were unnoticeable, faceless, blending in to the city streets, as never before. For the first time since we ended up homeless, sleeping in door ways, Megan slept, perfectly; undisturbed, without confrontation. I sat there, as Megan hibernated, curled up against my side, imagining our life together, in our own place; a warm fire burning, clean clothes, food in the cupboards; holding each other tightly, sleeping in a comfy bed. My eyes closed, I was there, away from the streets, far from the life I was used to. I was living again!
Dawn broke, on a crisp winters morning. I couldn’t feel the chill; I felt warm, at peace and finally happy. I could see Magan, still asleep, still that sparkle in her eyes, still as beautiful as she ever was. I looked at her face from above; looking down at us both. For the first time, I saw the truth, in front of me. I wasn’t with Magan any more, not in the literal sense; I had left her side that night. I couldn’t feel her cheek next to mine, the touch of her hand on my leg and her hair on my face; I was wide awake, like never before. Magan was laying in a green field of flowers, pulsating with energy, vivid technicolour; abstract. I pointed my finger, towards the love of my life, sleeping soundly. The picture in view, rippled, obscured, as a stone falls into water. I reached out to touch Megan's arm, I felt nothing. I was there, as an observer, looking in at what once was. My heart felt deeper, my touch, more distant.
I died that night, quietly in my sleep, there was no family surrounding my bed, no pain from the bruises that adorned my body; no hospital machines, no noise, no drama, just me drifting away, holding the person I loved close. The torture and torment I felt in life had gone; in death it had dissipated into the memories of the past; agonising reminiscences, that had all but gone. I never imagined my passing to be like this: always believing my ending would be more arduous than life itself. I couldn’t hold Megan any more, but I knew now, she would also finally be at peace. Losing someone close is harrowing and daunting, but in time, the disquiet will pass, and life will go on; new experiences ahead, more memories to share and stories to tell.
I remained with Megan, as she fought back the tears, trying to shake my body back into life. Uncontrollably, inconsolable despair, as my body was removed. I saw myself placed in a cold morgue, a funeral paid for by the state; just Megan mourning my passing. I stayed with her, day after day; no longer on the streets, cared for in the shelter we rejected together, a short time before. Somewhere warm she could finally lay her head. Still broken with grief, but getting stronger each day.
I was with the person I loved, for a very long time, I watched her grow and with determination, strength of mind and willpower, achieve all her dreams. She went to college, studied harder each day, got a job, in the hospital, we had both run from, on that cold November afternoon. She cared for others, as she cared for me, devoting her life to those in need. Megan held their hand, as she held mine, gave them hope, an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. Her life on the streets had taught her much. She was a survivor in a harsh world. Megan lived because I died, one life for the aspirations, and achievements of another, willingly given to see her grow.
This is my final day with Megan, the day I had been waiting for, the day we got our own flat together; finally Magan achieved what we both had wanted. I shared the day she moved into her new home; the reason I stuck around, to see her finally happy, sanguine away from the streets. During that first night in her new home, she slept with the lamp on, street lights illuminating the dark. Magan still had to overcome the demons that haunted her, the nightmares that still languished, but on this, our first and last night together, she knew I was there, watching over her, as she slept soundly in her bed, making sure she was safe from the night ahead.
It was a busy night at St Mary’s A&E, as Megan and I left, walking sheepishly past the ward desk. Everyone was so busy dealing with the excesses of a Saturday night, they didn’t notice us creep past. My head was banging harder than ever. The nurse had put six staples in the top, near the crown, where the bottle had caused the worst damage. I still felt dizzy, from the throbbing and a little disorientated from the pain killers they had given me. Megan looked worried, trying her best to keep me up right, stumbling as she went. She was only small, quite petite really, just over five foot in height. I on the other hand was just over six foot, an odd combination, at first sight, but two people very much in love, having suffered tremendously during our short time together. The more we lived through, the closer we became. Jointly we felt invincible, apart nothing but!
Finally we reached the entrance; the woman at the desk, in the foyer, glanced over, lowering her glasses to the tip of her nose. She was stern, dead pan face, emotionless, the official face of the hospital.
‘Are you OK, can I help you!’ she enquired firmly, as we turned away from her gaze, looking directly at the glass doors.
‘We’re alright, thank you!’ Magan shouted back, her voice crumbling, as she stopped me falling, on the step of the vestibule, grabbing my waist, holding me as upright as she could!
‘We were, um just er, er, visiting a friend; we, er have to go, no time to talk’ Magan continued, leaning me up against a wall, gently guiding me through the revolving doors, into the outside.
By now, Magan was practically dragging me along, down a steep slope, used by wheelchairs and out into the afternoon hustle and bustle, along the high street, stopping every few yards, taking a look over her back, making sure we weren’t being followed. Of course we weren’t, but clouded judgement, fear of the unknown and the need to stay together, bought many anxieties to the surface. Megan’s adrenaline was working on over drive at least; it felt like we were running for ages. I was shattered, debilitated and just needed a moment to rest. Eventually we reached the relative safety of Sussex Gardens, far enough away from the hospital, where we took a breather. Neither of us, had a clue why we were running? Or what we were running from? We just needed to get away from that place; they would tear us apart and we wouldn’t see each other again.
The weather was starting to get cold. It was November; we had lost everything and would find it difficult keeping warm, without some form of protection, so we set off towards Paddington Station, to find shelter for the night. You really don’t know how difficult it is, finding a spot to sleep in London. London is of course a vast city, with many back streets and lanes, most of which are unsafe for the likes of us at night. We always preferred to stay in the more noticeable areas, just in case anything happened. When Megan and I first found ourselves sleeping rough, we quite quickly became victims. I may be nursing a broken head today, but we encountered far worse in the past.
Within a couple of days, of being homeless, drifting, deperate, in the early hours of a Tuesday morning, both Magan and myself were held at knife point, after sleeping in the service entrance of a well known hotel. The back street of the establishment was narrow, poorly lit and difficult to run away from. I stood there up against the back doors, of this prestigious hotel, in front of Magan, shaking with fear, all the while shielding her from this knife carrying attacker. With the blade up against my throat, he used his hands to search my pockets, for the little change I had left. He demanded Magan, stand up and show herself. Keeping the knife, firmly near my neck, he again searched Magan, taking the one item she had left, from her life, living with her Mother, long since dead, A silver locket, a picture and a lock of hair, viciously removed from her collar.
Magan knew there was nothing she could do; I could see the tears welling up in her eyes, yet couldn't do anything to help her. We had spoken before about what to do, should anything like this happen. It was our ‘emergency procedure’ if you like. Stay still, motionless, not making a sound and give the aggressor whatever they wanted. When you end up on the streets, in the manner we did, you know very well, just how precious life is. Things, items, are worthless when you spend every day trying to survive. Never again would we sleep down a back alley, away from the public gaze, that was our mistake and we had learned from it.
Padding Station wasn’t too bad, compared to some of the places we had stayed in the past. I knew from previous experience that some members of the local church, would come by, regularly, offering soup and a bun, to the homeless that frequented the station at night. In reality it didn’t matter where I rested; I was in severe pain and couldn’t go on for much longer. A doorway is a doorway in the end, and as long as I could lean against something, anything, just to ease the pain, I would be happy.
Still supporting my body weight, Magan finally got us both to Paddington. We found a spot next to the tube entrance, which offered some shelter, from the cold. An old cardboard box, left, tucked up behind the ticket machine, would accord us both some warmth and maybe we could find something to eat. It was an ideal spot; commuters running for their train, would generally discard food, a half eaten sandwich, a packet of crisps, anything edible. Both Megan and I hadn’t eaten for two days, we just needed something to keep us going, to help us sleep. Like most things in our life recently, it would be another night of anguish, as the pain in my head got worse. This was no normal head wound, this was something serious. Tomorrow the urgency of my situation would become clear!
It was our first flat together; up until now we had been sleeping in shop doorways, a derelict caravan and even a tent in ‘Old Tally Woods’. This had gone on for six months. We had shivered in the winter snow, showered no more and battled against officials, trying to find somewhere to live. We didn’t want a mansion, we just wanted a place to call our own, a roof over our heads and to wake up one day, not feeling damp and wet from the elements outside.
We walked the streets during the day, trying to keep warm, until the sunlight faded and we could find a quiet doorway to lay our heads for the night. The bright lights of the city, were always on high beam. A dark corner in the capital was never dark for long. By the time we closed our eyes, the sun came up; we blinked painfully into another day, no different from the one that had gone before. Stumbling through the streets of London was a journey we made with circadian familiarity; like the commuter, travelling to work, headphones tightly pushed into his ear, blocking out the unwanted noise of the morning traffic; scarf pulled firmly around his neck, unaware, oblivious to everything going on around him; we also trudged, beleaguered, tired, warn, marching the same route day in and day out. There was no warm office at the end of our course, our trek would never end: We remained stoical in the face of adversity, fighting to remain together, despite what was thrown our way. It couldn’t get much harder.
The weekends were always the worst. The city that never slept, became more vibrant and dangerous than usual. It was Saturday; we had found a place under the arches near Waterloo Bridge, right at the end, on the corner. A street lamp shone unabated into the space, a little over two meters long; it was late, we were both exhausted and the rain was beginning to fall. Megan cleared away the debris from the day and we laid down the single sleeping bag we both shared. It kept us tightly together, safe and secure; our body heat keeping us as warm as possible throughout the challenging night ahead. We had learned a lot about endurance, over the last few months; survival was important, not for us as individuals, but for us as a couple, sharing what little we had left; dreaming, hoping and preying that this wasn’t our lot. There had to be light at the end of this tunnel!
The street light under which we slept, illuminated the poverty spread out before our eyes! Megan had finally fallen asleep; not wanting to wake her, I moved slightly to one side, so she could at least have a night of undisturbed sleep. For safety, I always made her sleep on the inside, a lesson tragically learned! I lifted my head; societies unfortunate, unseen and forgotten hero’s of the night; huddled together in this frightening place. Safety in numbers was the key to staying alive another day. I sat there, back perched against the Victorian wall behind; shook my head, still not believing how our life together had come to this; angry that Magan had to suffer the indignity of a life on the streets, when she deserved far more, than I could give her. These were the times I thought for us both. Every night, I remained awake and vigilant as Megan slept, keeping watch, protecting the one I loved from the ravages around us. I normally managed to grab an hours rest, just as the sun came up. It wasn’t a lot, I grant you, but it was enough, to ensure Magan slept as soundly as she could.
This had gone on for a few months; Magan and I had suffered the hard way. A few weeks before, we had found somewhere to sleep, near a restaurant, in the city. It wasn’t ideal, people were passing by all night; shouting, screaming, drunk and abusive. We had both just fallen asleep, when I felt an excruciating pain in my stomach; it happened again, and again. I was so tired, I just didn’t want to get up. Suddenly, shattered glass and my head felt like it would explode, as blood started to pour from my brow. Blearily, confused unable to focus directly, I opened my eyes, as best I could, blood trickling into the sockets, stinging, penetrating, burning; before me, a group of young lads, dressed for a night out. Hands punching the air, fists cascading towards my face, another bottle swiped across my head; all the while, I tried to protect Megan from these delinquents out for a fight. She woke up, suddenly, screamed in the middle of a nightmare, startled the bottle wielding hooligans, ran into the night. I collapsed, unaware of what happened next, waking up in a hospital bed, Megan clasping my hand tightly. I saw the outline of a doctor speaking to a nurse, stood in front of my bed; I heard no sound, and gently passed out again.
I had no idea how long I slept. When I awoke, Magan was still there; she had fallen asleep on my chest. I felt the discomfort in my head even more than before, The pain ran from my forehead, down my jaw and across my shoulders. Gently, not wanting to wake up Magan, I lifted my head. The dizziness was overwhelming, as I steadied myself against the back of the bed. It took a while to wake up properly and get my bearings. The curtain was drawn around the cubicle; I could hear voices outside, then the muffled screeching of a radio, a police radio. By now Magan was awake and we both listened to the conversation outside.
They could find somewhere safe for Magan, in a women’s shelter, but nowhere for me. I would have to remain on the streets. We looked at each other; I knew there was no point, even suggesting Megan go into accommodation without me. She could survive on the streets, but not with a broken heart. We had never left each others side and didn’t intend to now. Eventually, the conversation ended and footsteps moved away from the bed. It was our chance to leave. Megan helped me dress in what clothes I had on, when I was brought into St Mary’s; the sleeping bag and belongings, our life left behind as the ambulance arrived to take me to hospital: while nobody was aware and the hospital staff were busy, we hurriedly left.
So here we are today, our first home together. After months braving the city streets, sleepless nights, abuse and lack of direction. Warm and content, in a flat far away from the city. Can we finally begin our life together, knowing that we now have a future? How we got here, was a journey in itself, one for another day. The occasions we spend battling, suffering through no fault of our own and trying to survive in an unforgiving world are the times, we will always look back on, learning the lessons needed to keep pushing us forward. I don’t regret anything; the streets showed me the way to a better life!