Continued from Charles Bernard
During this first month, Charles’ boss called every week to see when Charles would come back to work. But Charles, too ashamed of his condition, never answered his phone. After another month of trying to contact Charles, Mr. Smith’s patience began to wane. In the middle of March, he finally got fed up.
The phone rang. Charles, as usual, let it go to his answering machine.
“Charles, it’s Smith. Again. Listen, this is at least the 50th message I have left you and you still haven’t returned my calls. I can’t keep making excuses for you. You haven’t been to work in months, so I have no choice…You’re fired.”
Well, it was bound to happen, Charles thought when he heard the message.
Three more months passed, during which Charles never left his home. To get by, he sold his possessions, one by one, until all he had left was his couch. But, by the end of three months of unemployment, he had to sell that as well.
One day in June, the landlord paid Charles a visit. “Charles, you haven’t paid rent in over two months. Consider yourself evicted. Be out first thing Monday, and give your keys to me.” Without waiting for a response, he turned and walked away.
Two days later, Charles turned in his keys. Not knowing where else he could go, he headed for the metro. Once he got there, fear gripped him and his body seized up when he saw his first train. He had not been outside in six months, and the loud noises of the metro frightened him.
Spring had just begun, and the metro was more crowded than usual. Jean watched a young man struggle out of the train, towing two large suitcases behind him as a young woman followed, idly taking in her surroundings. Tourists, Jean thought. It’s about that time of year again I suppose. He sighed, thinking how it seemed like just yesterday he had been in a similar situation as that couple.
It had been almost two years since he had moved to New York. Born and raised in Redding, California, Jean and his sister packed their bags and got the hell out of their small town as soon as Jean was old enough to move away from home. They wanted a new change of scenery, a fresh start in an unknown area. Like many young people before them, the idea of life in a city allured them. And so they went to New York. But starting over was not as easy as they had imagined. After five weeks of jumping from hostel to hostel while looking for jobs, Jean’s sister got frustrated. One morning, after a night of heavy drinking to get over yet another day of being unemployed, Jean woke up to an empty room. His sister had left him, and she had taken everything with her, except his flute. Jean had been playing the flute since he was seven and everyone in town had thought he could make something of himself with it. A note next to his pillow with the words, “I’m sorry,” was the last he heard from her.
Not knowing what else to do, Jean decided to move in to the metro. He had seen plenty of other homeless people living there, and he figured, why not? It hurt him to think about his sister, but he still loved her, because she was family. Meanwhile he vowed to himself to always help other people in need, as a way of making up for what his sister had done to him.
He started using his flute as a means for making money, and soon realized he was good at it. He adapted to life in the metro, and he was happy. For the time being at least, this was where he felt he belonged.
“Hey creep! Watch where you’re going!” a woman yelled, jolting Jean back to the present. He looked up, and saw a man stumbling around the station, looking frightened and confused. “You lost friend?” he called out.
To be continued…