Early in the morning; it was already drizzling. The kind of weather that doesn’t make you want to go outside. Late at night; is the only time there is peace in the tunnel. Even before the sunrise; people and cars are rushing through it. I couldn’t sleep well last night. I guess because the ground seemed too cold as usual. The boxes that we found in trash bins didn’t help much. We had to flatten the boxes, so everyone could have a place to sit. I leaned against Soa who was lightly snoring. I tried not to wake her and her little son 3 yrs old son Patrick up. As I got myself in a more comfortable position. It has been a longtime; since I have been with Soa. We’re not related. Us being inseparable made us close as a family. Sometimes I have this urge inside of me to call her Mama like little Patrick. But I don’t dare. She’s not my mother. Just someone who found me in a trash bin by chance when I was a baby. She told me that I was wrapped in a plastic bag; crying weakly. She didn’t know how long I was there. What surprised her that I didn’t suffocate with all that trashes on top of me. She said that I was around 6 months. During that time; she was still childless. So she took me and tried to raise me as she could. When I grew up; once I called her Mama but she got very upset and yelled at me that she wasn’t my mother. Since then I called her by her name. Sometimes I ask myself what did I do wrong to make my real mother hate me so much. That she was capable to try to kill me. I was just an innocent baby for goodness sake. There are times that I would make up stories in my mind that she’ll come back to look for me. But she never did and I know she never will. I have to quite fooling myself. It isn’t easy to face up to reality. There’s no other choice. Patrick’s eyes open slowly and he begins to fidget. I remember the time Soa was pregnant. I never figured out who was the father. She always left me alone in the tunnel while she went to do her business. I knew that I’ll be lonely more than ever; especially when the baby comes. She’ll think more about her child than me. Soa didn’t go to a hospital to give birth. She couldn’t afford that. The night; she gave birth it was only me and her. She was screaming with pain. I didn’t know how to comfort her. I saw the baby head appear. She told me to make sure that the baby doesn’t fall on the ground. She handed me a sharp broken glass. She told me to use it to cut the umbilical cord. I did as she told me. The baby was fine. Soa was weak from a lot of blood loss. She told me not to worry just take care of the baby. After a few days; she got better. We solemnly get sick from the way we live or the food we eat. We’re use to it.
Each time that I look at Patrick; there’s this jealous feeling inside of me. I have to admit it that it hurts me a lot how Soa is so affectionate to him. I know that it’s her kid. Now; she treats me like I was just a puppy that tags along. I want to be loved too. It’s tough being 12 yrs old girl and lonely. As usual Patrick wanted to be paid and attention too. He howled.
Soa is startled: “What did you do to him?”
“Nothing! He just woke up and started to cry.”
“How much did you get till now?” Soa asked.
“People just pass by and no one drops any money in the can.”
“Peta, you don’t just wait for the people to read your mind. You have to beg.” Soa told her annoyed.
“Sir! Madam! Please give us money we haven’t eaten for days.” Peta begged. No one cared. People tried not to step on them. It was probably because they didn’t want their clean clothes to get dirty.
“Stay here! We’re going for a walk.” Soa said.
“I don’t want too. I’m going too.”
“Not with us; go somewhere else. You better bring back the money you get and not eat it all yourself.” Soa warned her.
Peta had no choice but to obey her. At night; it’s a jungle out here. There’s no safety for anyone; especially little girls like her. People think that bad guys don’t mess with homeless people like us. Even though we have nothing to offer them. We’re not safe. Once after midnight; the silence in the tunnel was disturbed by a group of guys. They were very rowdy and drunk. They kicked us repeatedly while we were sleeping. One guy pulled me and forced me to follow him. I was terrified and screamed. Soa hollered at them to leave me alone. She got punched in the face. The guy who was gripping my arm so hard; looked at me and said: “Do you think I want you? You stinky, dirty rag!” He threw me against the wall. I didn’t pass out. Just in terrible pain. I heard them laugh hysterically while they left. That wasn’t the first time incidents like that happened to me. It was always Soa to protect me. I’m grateful for what she has done for me. As she said that I owe her.
People don’t like to get near me because I smell bad and really filthy. I can’t help it. Here in town it’s difficult to find to water and soap to wash ourselves. The disgust look on their faces really breaks my heart. I want to shout at them and say: Don’t look and treat me like that. I’m a human being like you. I have blood circulating in me and organs like you. We came into this world the same way and we all will die one day too. The differences between us are that you have a roof over your head; good food to eat; education; money and clean. What do I have? Nothing compared to you. I live under a tunnel. I’m stepped on everyday. No one bothers to apologize. The air I inhale is pollution from the cars you have. I dig into the trash bin to survive from starving. A rotten fruit is one of the best foods we can find. You throw away your leftovers. When we find it; it’s like we found a treasure. When your clothes are torn or old ; you throw it away. We gather it and wear it again. It helps us from being cold and naked. The things you consider as garbage. We take it and cherish it for the rest of our lives.
I’d been walking for hours now with a growling stomach. I begged people to give me a piece of what they were eating. They ignored me. Or the usual answers: No! or I have nothing to give you!
I was totally exhausted and sat on the grass near a bench where there was two girls talking. They were complaining about their parents not giving them allowances to buy clothes. Not having enough money to watch the concert during the weekend.
I sighed and thought to myself that everyone has their own problems and worries. It was getting dark and everyone seemed to be in a hurry to get home. For me; I don’t have anything special waiting for me at home. No hot meal nor a cozy bed nor a television show that I don’t want to miss; at home. Tonight will be like one of those other nights that I would go to sleep with an empty stomach. Hours passed but Soa and her son didn’t come back yet. I didn’t worry about them. Soa knows how to take care of herself. All I have is my dreams to create a world that I know will never exist for me. I dream at night and face reality in the morning.
Days, weeks; and months passed. Soa and little Patrick never showed up again. Peta looked around everywhere but couldn’t find them. She became a loner in a cruel world where you have to fight for survival. She had no one to lean on too but herself. “That’s my world which differs from yours!”