There’s an alcove beside the bowling alley where a guy called Alex lives.
It’s just one of those architectural things meant to make the building look a bit classy, but for Alex, it’s a safe place, out of the weather and for the most part out of harm’s way.
In the alcove, he stores everything that is his. His rough bed, his few possessions and a spare pair of boots.
Alex does a lot of walking and even though he owns only one set of clothes his boots he considers crucial to his survival.
I’ve known him a long time, not that we are close or anything, but on nodding terms, our familiarity is all about acknowledgement.
I don’t think Alex has ever been inside the bowling alley. So, while there are games being played and strikes happening, Alex withdraws into his world, private and personal.
He doesn’t bother anyone, the locals tolerate him, and the police know he is there, and for his benefit and the communities, they leave him alone.
Each morning when out on a walk I’ll see him heading to the servo where the manager allows him to use the restrooms for which Alex is happy to give them a clean before he leaves, it’s a win-win all round.
He spends his days wondering the town, sitting in the shopping mall watching the world go by. He knows he is not a desirable character in the mall, so he doesn’t stay long. Wherever he needs to go, he walks and in the early mornings when it’s cold and often brisker than most of us like he frequents the coffee cart in the main street where the lady running it gives him a coffee.
Twenty years before Alex had been a successful business man, but everything went bad for him.
The bottom fell out of the market, and he went down with it. His wife and family blamed him for their now penniless state and moved away. He found himself destitute and with nowhere to go found his solace on the streets and eventually in the town I lived in.
He learned how to survive. He knew the places to go where he would be safe, and he knew to keep his nose clean.
He told me once about a friend he had. They met each day in the park and talked about their respective lives. She’d had a tough life, and he considered hers worse than his own. He found it good to have someone who looked at him as the man he was. In those times she’d bring him fresh underwear, she’d wash his pants and jacket, discuss politics with him, share a lunch she often bough from home.
Alex never knew where she lived, it was never important he once said, the time in the park was all that mattered, and he never thought to intrude too much into her life. She had her own set of demons, and he loved to listen when she talked about her dreams.
Then one day she didn’t show up. There’d been no hint from her that she was going away, that she wanted no more to do with him. He visited the park every day for months, and she never returned.
He felt more abandoned than ever and maintained his vigil for fear she’d return and think he’d abandoned her.
That was a long time ago, and Alex resident in the alcove beside the bowling alley lived his days mostly in silence, acknowledging the familiar faces but rarely engaging in any dialogue.
In his mind, he lived a life of park meetings, of warmth and caring, of love that could have been his but was now lost.
As the evening closed in and the night gamers arrived, he pulled his coat about him, drew up his dirty old blanket and prepared for another long night.