AS 2.4 “Perspectives” writing –
From riches to rags
Statement of Intent: The purpose of this piece is to portray changes that people go through in life for differing reasons, and how it can have a significant effect on them. The main character originally appears to be an obnoxious person,however, an event during the story causes a huge perspective change from the reader once we realise the characters true intent and story, the life that had been leading. We are also shown the common occurrence of pre-conceived ideas and how they are often incorrect.
Sweaty hands fumbled with tobacco as he reached into a tired backpack, worn from years of hard-love. Any paper would release him from the constraints of society. The completed product, spendings of his scant money, caressed blistered lips in a long breath. Its destructive influence briefly acknowledged before the cancer pushed from his lungs in a solitary, extended exhalation. It had begun as a personal reward: a cigarette, whilst the sun disappeared behind high-rising skyscrapers, and the incessant traffic flow of the afternoon slowly began to cease. He had convinced himself that this deed was deserved, for surviving the cruel hand of fate and living through another meaningless day. Eventually, it transformed into a habit that he could not live without. Although the small sum of taxpayers money bequeathed by the government each week was used, his desire for the thrill nicotine offered was too much, futile to resist.
Cigarettes were accompanied by the familiar, distasteful pain of concrete against his worn, once grey slacks. They were both constants in this dull life. The most interesting daily occurrence was the reception of a fiver into his weathered cap by generous passers-by. Experiences of living on the streets had taught him to take nothing for granted; to appreciate every minute of life that was gifted. He could have told you this before he was ousted, if only anyone had bothered to ask.
His few associates were the other homeless people whom he occasionally encountered, because of their differences those experiences were disagreeable. Unfortunately, no one would see any variance, as it never made it past first impressions. His once handsome face had become next to unrecognizable, a haggard beard drooping down like a poorly attended hedge, hiding his chiseled features. The indentations of the cobbled footpath were constantly apparent, lining his cheeks and converging with creased smile lines. These features all contributed to the perception that society now held. Displeasing as it was, the way people looked at him, he had come to accept it.
His mind often drifted back to the times before he relied upon the generosity of strangers that meandered past. They were the support, not the wealthy business men that walked by on their way to and from work each day. There was no condemnation. He wouldn’t have been caught giving money to a derelict; content with scavenging for a living, a menace to society, someone not worth feeling empathetic towards. When his mind strayed from reality back to his former self decisions made were thoroughly contemplated. His life was full of satisfactions, yet unfulfilled. Originally, he looked for the final piece to the puzzle through money, but that led to more despair. Only then did he come to the realisation that the much sought after dollar could not buy happiness. This revelation changed him, and his life drastically.
People often look for fulfillment in the form of religion, a spiritual journey which comes with unpredictable results. This pathway being one of many choices made in the attempt to be better off. For those who feel the need to alter their life in some way often find change imperative to their health. For reasons only known to him, had he not changed his ways then life would have transpired to be without meaning.
The cruel reality would always bring him back from these places in his mind. When he was lucky it was the sound of coins being dropped into his old baseball cap, a reminder of his life that once was. Unfortunately, more often than not, it was the searing pain of a cigarette against his coarse hands as it reached the stump. His home had become a fire hazard, something quite ironic considering the constant use of a lighter within. The outcast pieces of cardboard scattered around him provided a makeshift bed, not one of any comfort, but it was the best he could do, he did not possess the kind of money for any luxuries. Time was dedicated to either lighting a cigarette, painfully pursing sore lips and taking a regretful but relieving drag or, standing in the social services shelter line for the possibility of a bed for the night. This had only happened a few times during the many years he had spent on the streets due to the ever increasing quantity of unemployed people left with no option but to live as him. The other favorite pastime of his was dedicated to reading. Books were not intriguing, newspapers and magazine columns were it, the much thinner composition reminded him of the delicacy of life. They allowed a slight connection with the ‘outside’ world. One in particular was his favorite way of separating himself from the rest of the vagrants: those truly of the lower class who constituted most of the people living off the dole. This was for the betterment of his own sense of identity rather than for the strangers who wandered past him as they, before even seeing him, had a preconceived idea around ‘homelessness’.
‘Homelessness’ was one of the hardest aspects to his life. No one understood the situation in which he had been positioned, and due to this, you could not find someone who cared. Although internally different, his gaunt outward appearance was the same as his street acquaintances. This possessed significant effects. He felt as though no one held any respect for him; fortunately he had means to prevent these perceptions from destroying him. Disgusted looks were about as consistent as the cold, interrupted sleeps that plagued the nights, but how could he see these looks if his face was buried in the past…
He adjusted his position on the cardboard ‘bed’ and became as settled as one possibly could when lying on bare concrete. Reaching back into his well-loved bag he produced an immaculate piece of paper, no tears or wrinkles visible to the naked eye. Obviously something of great importance to him. Upon closer inspection it was a folded newspaper kept in good condition due to the plastic slip encasing it. The front page detailed some ‘important news’, but continuing onto the eighth page, as he always did, would strike you with something much more meaningful.
“Former millionaire living life in the utmost echelons of society, donates final check of highest sum to charity for unknown reasons, following return from overseas excursion. This act rendering his previous life obsolete and ensuring a dramatic change in lifestyle due to bankruptcy.”
We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty. – Mother Theresa
-Alex Plimmer (Level 2, WAIDE)