Wrath of the Righteous of Fillmore St
I’ve been alone for as long as I can remember. I mean, it’s not like I would have chosen this life, but why whine about something that just…is. People walk by sometimes and look at me with that face…that “poor-thing-where-are-her-parents” face….but they pass by and so do I, and some of them have mysteriously lighter pockets as they go.
Really, living on the street is just like anything else: you just have to learn the rules. For me, 3 rules are about all I need.
Rule #1. Do whatever you can stomach to do to survive.
Steal, cheat, lie, sell. I learned to pick pockets before I really learned how to speak. I’ve done a lot of things to survive, and a few of them I regret. Some things you do you just can’t wash off. No mistake…some days are darker than others. Although I’ll tell you some people have a bigger stomach for cruelty than I do. I mean, nasty things. Survival like this…it brings out the dark in people and that’s the truth. Which brings me to my second rule.
Rule #2 People are a Liability.
Like I said, I’ve been here for awhile. I’ve done my stint in crews. I’ve had “mentors.” I’ve had “bosses.” And I’ll tell you they are all bloody disappointments, some more painful than others. Because at the end of the day, everyone is looking out for themselves. They aren’t thinking about you when the job goes bad, or when they can get their next score, or when someone new and shiny shows up. They’ll leave you as soon as keep you. You can’t rely on people, and it’s only foolish to try. Having people rely on you is even worse, because when it comes down to it, you are no better than all those other idiots who left you behind. Being alone is always better.
Rule #3 Never Stop Moving.
This is a good rule because it applies to everything. Pick a pocket near the bakery? Keep moving to the butcher shop. Been sleeping in the same place for 2 nights in a row? Find a new spot… no less than 3 blocks away. Start getting friendly with some other kids? Get the hell out. (Refer to Rule #2). This more than anything is why I’m still alive and why I never get caught. I am good at it. I’m always moving forward…even if it is in the same dingy city I’ve lived in my whole life. To stop moving, to settle, to get comfortable is to give up, to die. And more than anything I want to live.
More than anything in the world I want to live, and I’ve been alone as long as I can remember. So it was really confusing when I did something that was against all of my rules and was…well…let’s be honest…downright suicidal.
I was looking for a new spot to sleep and saw this little girl on the wrong side of Bruno, our slimy resident “negotiator.” It’s not like I’d never seen this before. I’d walked past scenes like this and worse as long as I could remember without batting an eye. People are cruel, you know? It’s a tough life. But there was…something.. about this kid. I don’t even know what it was. I didn’t make a choice really. One minute I was walking by them with my pack in hand and the next I’m standing between this tiny creature and Bruno with no plans and a throat drier than my canteen. And I thought….This is where you die…idiot girl. 13 years surviving these streets and you are going to die for what? Pity? Honor? This stranger? You know better! Fool.
I had nothing. No plan, nothing to trade or offer him. Well, that wasn’t strictly true, I knew something he would accept from me gladly, but I had promised myself I would never do that again. And I realized then that I really wouldn’t, even to save my life, or the life of this little girl I was giving my life for. There was a strange peace in that, knowing that I might have some honor in me after all. I had nothing. I was nothing. There was nowhere left to go. So I just started talking.
“Bruno, how are you this evening?” I said brightly, my voice sounding much more casual than I felt.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing, urchin?” growled Bruno in a tone that spoke of pain and the growing darkness.
“Oh you know….just out for a walk. Enjoying the evening. Then I saw you two doing the same and I figured I would join.” I couldn’t believe what I was doing. Chatting up Bruno like we were some aristocrats on a moonlit stroll.
“I’m warning you brat, move out of my way or it’s you who’ll get this whelp’s beating.”
I could see the fury building in his eyes and knew the end was seconds away. Desperately I started babbling.
“Yeah, yeah, I know I know. But let’s say you didn’t. She can’t be much fun anyway. And you know me. Let’s just say you decided to just go home and forget about her. Let’s say you just forget about the both of us and we both go along our way. Then we all go home happy and….and let’s just say that…”
I paused in the midst of describing this fairytale world in which we definitely do NOT live, at the look on Bruno’s face. Because it wasn’t the fury I expected, but rather a confused, almost dumbstruck, expression. His eyes screwed up at the torchlight and his mouth tilted into a grimace. He stood there mouth opening and closing for a few moments, then simply muttered,
“I’m going home.”
Then turned around and walked away, taking the torchlight with him.
I stared after him for 10 minutes after he disappeared into the dark. Logically I knew I should move. That I should accept whatever insane miracle just happened, be grateful, and keep moving. Leave behind this tiny bad choice clinging to my leg and find a place to sleep. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something I said MADE him leave. As impossible as it seemed, as upside down as it was; that I told Bruno to forget us and go home…and he did.
And that is how I broke all of my rules in one night…and how I acquired my own personal urchin.
We’ve been together for a couple years now. We’ve seen Bruno a few times, but he always just stares straight through us, like we aren’t even there. Each time it sends me back to that night, to the strange shiver of power I possessed over him, and I have to shake it off. But anyway, I’m teaching Reina how to survive, and she’s “teaching me to be more human” as she’d put it. But she’s a bad influence on me. Firstly, she won’t leave. I’ve tried several times. People are a liability. I try to tell her that people can’t be trusted and that she can’t rely on me, that I’ll disappoint her. One day she’ll find that out. Although, surprisingly, I kind of want her to be right about me. Secondly, she’s roped me into helping some other kids out of some tight spots these last couple years. “It’s your duty” she says in her trilling voice. There was no living with her after the Bruno incident. No telling her that I HAD no idea how/if I’d done it and that I couldn’t just “do it again.” But she’s talked me into it enough that I’ve got this “reputation” on the streets for being able to talk my way out of anything. It’s not good; any sort of reputation on the streets is a dangerous one. If I were to add another rule it would be “stay invisible.”….which I am now definitely not. Thirdly, she brought along a stray: a little raven she likes to call Oscuro. It’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen. But it seems to like me, and if I’m being honest, I don’t hate the ugly little rat with wings. Like I said….bad influence.
So here we are, our little mutant family, headed for a day at the festival: like, and unlike, so many others, availing ourselves of pockets’ contents as we go.