He wakes as usual to a cold draught coming down the concrete culvert. He drags the worn old blanket he found by the roadside over him, the cardboard base of his bed is well and truly flattened by his constant laying in the one spot.
He breathes in tasting the fresh morning air and realises he has made it through another night.
He opens his eyes to the grey dawn grateful to be alive one more day.
It’s a mantra he repeats to himself, that notion of gratitude to whoever for letting him live this long.
He doesn’t mind the rough life he has, it could always be worse he tells himself, and he wonders when his time does come how long it will be before anyone finds him.
That’s one of his concerns that he will die and no one will know, no one will care.
The culvert is big enough for him to stand in, there’s one advantage he thinks to himself of being short in stature. He walks to the far end of the culvert and relieves himself and as he does he looks out at the world taking shape around him. There’s a fog so he knows it will be a warm day and he looks forward to that.
Above him the morning commute is beginning, the dull roar and click of the traffic overhead is by now a familiar and welcome sound. It gives him feeling of belonging, that there are people around him even when they know nothing of his existence. Another thing to be grateful for he thinks as the crushing sound of a semi-trailer races by.
He gathers his rough clothes around him, pushes his feet into a pair of old work boots, again found discarded on the road, and heads out to the servo two kilometres down the road where the owner will let him use the toilet and washroom.
He has learned over the years to be grateful for small mercies. The servo owner nods to him as he enters and he nods back, a silent greeting and conversation all in one.
In the washroom, he looks at his face in the mirror and remembers his mothers words that only those who have suffered understand the suffering.
There’s a younger man looking at him, and he pushes him away, he has no time for that man’s pain, his broken heart is still eating at him, and he knows that in old age it’s not doing him any good lingering on a past heartache.
“Look at yourself now,” he hears himself saying, “what would she think of you now?”
He dismisses her as he has these past twenty years and goes out and collects a coffee and sandwich from the servo owner. He sits outside away from the regular customers and begins his day, grateful for the kindness of the servo owner whose name he doesn’t know, but whose generosity he always expresses his thanks to.
As the sun rises he begins the slow walk back to his culvert, the traffic by now is busy, it pays him scant attention and he it. In one pocket he carries a few paper towels from the servo washroom, they’ll come in handy later, in the other one half of the sandwich. Life’s okay he thinks, I have much to be grateful for, a place to sleep and something to eat.