Invisible Secret Agent Hobo
Eric Timure sat on a wall—no, just kidding, he sat on a plastic crate next to a rusty green dumpster. He sat there, contemplating the beauty of the sky and the nature of humanity—no I was kidding there too, his mind was occupied with the putrid smell emanating from the trash. He was currently residing on the side of a dilapidated street, along with a few other homeless people. The same unfortunate fate tied them all together, like the string at the openings of the trash bags that comprised their surrounding area. Eric had an old messenger bag with him, where he kept all of his belongings. He was dressed in shapeless, indistinguishable clothes, which, despite being very used and unwashed, did not immediately label him as a hobo.
Eric decided that he was cold, just sitting there, so he stood up to walk around and somehow find out the time. The soup kitchen nearby was supposed to open up for lunch soon. The past week, he had been going to that same place for lunch every single day. Since it was a soup kitchen, it fed people for free. All he had to do was volunteer there at least once a week. Of course, he could just come in wearing different clothes every day, and no one would notice, but Eric was a generally honest person, so he preferred to help out once in a while. It's not like he was busy or anything.
He walked into the building that contained said soup kitchen. There were already a few people sitting there and eating. Most of them did not look like homeless people. At worst, they looked like middle or lower class people that woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. In truth, most of the hobos he'd seen in his life looked this way, excluding the drug abusers and perpetually drunk alcoholics.
He walked up to the counter where some middle aged ladies were serving up globs of food onto the paper plates that people brought forth on their maroon or grey-green plastic trays. He pushed his tray along the counter, and the food magically dropped onto it, like one of those magical scenes in Hogwarts. In reality, this was caused by the fact that the lunch ladies were pressed for time, and had developed an uncanny ability to serve food from a distance, skillfully catapulting it onto unsuspecting homeless people's plates. After a while though, most people's amazement at this unusual spectacle soon wore off, to be replaced with the usual apathy that people feel when observing strange cafeteria food sitting on their plates.
Once the gloppy mush had settled onto his plate like a fine, sheeny layer of dirty sweat and/or mud, Eric picked up some eating implements and walked over to a nearby table to eat. The table was one of those white plastic ones, with this grainy texture and black metal poles for legs.
He ate his food calmly, chewing the bites, although there was not much to chew, since even the meat had the consistency of pudding. The volunteers here sure liked to over-boil their cooking.
After he was done eating, he threw the paper plates and plastic utensils into the trash bin, which flashed him a quick "Thank you!" as the flap swung back and forth. He decided that today would be the day that he volunteered at the kitchen, to earn his daily meals. He pushed the swinging door that separated the kitchen from the cafeteria, and had to stand a few minutes in front of the head kitchen lady, before she proceeded to rattle off some instructions on what he would be doing today. As usual, he was assigned to cleaning the pots, pans and other crockery that was used in the creation of the fine gloop that was served at the counter.
After soaking his hands in the warm, soapy and yet-untainted-by-food water for a few seconds, he proceeded to unmeticulously scrub the baked on grub off of the crockery.
The bustling sound of a dozen volunteers in the kitchen was counter intuitively quite comforting, and it did not take long for Eric's attention to wander, as his hands became used to automatically picking up dishes, scrubbing, rinsing and setting them down onto the towel spread out next to the sink.
After a while, his wandering attention was brought back by the appearance of another volunteer. The man, looking about in his late twenties or early thirties walked through the swinging door, and after listening to the same lady rattle off some more instructions, walked over to Eric and began drying the dishes that Eric had washed. They began to work like that, in a smooth harmony of plop, squeak, plop, swoosh, clack. A few minutes passed, a few plates were washed, the drying towel was switched.
"Hey, so do you volunteer here often?" The man said, "I think I've seen you before."
"Well, once in a while, when I have the time." Actually, being homeless, Eric had a lot of free time, but admitting that he volunteered here once a week meant practically admitting that he came here to eat, which practically gave him away as practically a hobo. And that was not something people like to tell others, especially not the first time they meet someone.
"Yeah, I don't volunteer that often here either. Mostly I go in order to make my wife happy, she's pretty big on the whole volunteering and community service thing, as if I don't do enough of that already!"
They washed dishes like that for a while. The man did most of the talking, but both were glad for the company. After washing dishes, they peeled potatoes for a while, before helping clean up some more, and then getting ready to leave. As Eric was putting on his dusty colored jacket, the man offered his hand.
"It was a pleasure talking to you. I really feel like I've met you before. The name's Jan by the way. Jan Gibberson."
"Jan... w-wait, JAN!" Eric exclaimed, "We really have met before! I was your classmate back in high school! I'm Eric!"
"Eric…oh, Eric! Hey, it was good times back then! Where have you been all this time?" he looked at his watch, "Tell you what, I'll buy you a drink, and we can talk about the good old days. How about at seven, at Barley's, they have a good brew there."
"Sure, that's on Priant Avenue, right?"
"Yeah, I've got to get home now, so see you there!" He walked out of the building.
Eric had not had a good drink in a while now, since he hadn't had the money for any luxury items in a long time. He walked out of the building and went back to the alley in which he usually spent his dreary days sitting on the crate next to the dumpster.
Sometimes he would talk to other homeless people, since normal people generally weren't interested in talking to "dirty and smelly" strangers like him. Sometimes he would stand around as other homeless lit up fires in trashcans. Those burning fires brought melancholy warmth to him. Being in the company of others that shared his misfortune wasn't really something to be happy about, but it did provide a small comfort.
Unlike some teenagers that willingly chose this fate, to defy authorities and live while having fun and not caring for anything, Eric did not have a choice in his life or luck. Although he had been provided with several opportunities to improve his livelihood, every single time he tried, he inevitably failed.
His situation wasn't totally the same as everyone else's. He was born with a curse. An impairment. Of course, it wasn't anything supernatural, or anywhere near it, but it was mysteriously powerful. He was born with a complete lack of social presence. People just ignored him, wherever he went. He only had a few friends, and most of them had forgotten him by now. He never made an impression on anyone. He was generally average. He did pretty well in school. He grew up in a normal middle class family. That probably made his dilemma even worse, since life had made him abnormally normal. At parties, which he did not go to that often anyway, he was made the unwilling wallflower, since whenever he tried to join into some conversation, people didn't take any notice of him, and continued talking as if no one had spoken.
They weren't trying to be mean, or rude, they were genuinely not able to take notice of him. That's how bad his lack of social presence was.
Because of this, many unfortunate situations often befell him. It was hard enough for him to get a job, since bosses and interviewers never seemed to remember his name, but they also often forgot to give him pay checks, sign important papers, and include him in work schedules. It was as if he just eluded their minds. The worse by far, however, was whenever he finally managed to land a job at a small shop or convenience store. He would be standing behind the counter, trying to look friendly and encourage people to buy stuff, but customers would not notice him behind the counter, and would simply walk out with the items, thinking that it was an easy shoplift. He would try to chase after them, but to no avail, because they would simply ignore him and get lost in the surrounding crowds. The rate of shoplifting would get so bad that he would be fired within days, because of "negligence and improper work ethic". He would then be responsible for paying the price of the stolen goods. With this, his income was constantly in the negative, even without counting the meager amount he spent on food and other essential objects.
It was as if he was invisible. Constantly being pushed around by society, he didn't have a say in his fate, which proved to be near fatal later on in this story of his life.
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