The dog looks up at me from the tatters of the ripped jacket he lies on. His owner – ripped himself – sits with his back to a concrete wall near the tube station and begs for change. The man has little left in his voice, I can tell, as if the begging song in his throat has condensed into a whistle only he and his dog can hear. I reach into my pockets and realize I am quite poor myself. I have a few English pounds and some pence to spare, so I give them to this mangy man while looking into the hungry eyes of his dog. Everyone around me reads the London Evening Standard but I try to read the homeless man at my feet. There are better stories in the gaze of this man and his dog. Newspapers try to emulate heartache with articles that have gone through the editorial ringer in hopes that gripping tears will seep themselves into the words written by writers who write in buildings that have air conditioning and heaters and kitchens where journalists eat plain sandwiches and salads and talk about the weather as they try to conjure their career into a meaningful occupation by stretching, always stretching, for the late-breaking story that will make them more than a byline in a free newspaper given out near tube stations in this London town.

Journalism inspired me, once. But I found the inherent restrictions of journalism sink creativity. Professors in college told me I needed to write in simpler terms, because people don’t like long sentences or words they don’t understand. Instead, I found my writing voice in the journals I kept that documented my life and the people who filled my pages more efficiently than quotation marks. Realistically, newspapers live in trash bins or recycling bins, because that’s what journalism has become: a grimy, regurgitating dumpster that tricks people into believing they are reading something new.

When I left college, I struggled finding a profession that could captivate me. It seemed that there were restrictions everywhere. Corporate blankets and small business scams and agency time wasters became the hoses that suctioned my curiosity. It was like everything I loved in life was dumped into the waste bin of failed careers. I crumpled, too, under the immense pressure of making something of myself. College tries to fluff you up but life never plays the role of a peacock: no bright colors or wingspans promising flight ever come your way unless you are willing to settle for temporary internship hell. Give all your time to a business that takes advantage of you and find yourself lapping water off the kitchen faucet with a burned steak waiting for you on a paper plate while you try to fry up a more decent life with beer batter and grease. Sounds appetizing, right? And those internships amount to unpaid bills and months and months of your life that you will never get back. And you do it for what? A few lines on a resume? For a few more minutes with an interviewer who tries to burry you under phrases like “under qualified” and “gaps in employment?”

I stare again into the eyes of the dog. His homeless owner has already forgotten my charity and has moved on to the next sentimentalist. I want to unleash the dog from captivity and give him a better life. But what have I to give? I have spent all my money on a shoebox Notting Hill flat and the gutter outside the station collects more food than my refrigerator, which has been empty since the day I moved in. The dog would go from street level poverty to third floor poverty. Is there a difference? I suppose the man needs his dog, anyhow. A man cannot be companions with the rain, or with inanimate objects that collect around him in the form of trash. I leave the two of them and my heart breaks for the dog. I convince myself he’ll be okay…

The rain comes and I walk around town and huddle under rooftops here and there when the rain gets too heavy, and watch Londoners rush from place to place with umbrellas protecting them from the storm. In between water droplets, I see flashes of my potential life: me dripping on the street like the homeless man, or writing from that well-lit window overlooking the park, or catching a cab with a London girl who thinks the rain is romantic, or spilling myself over curbs and on the pavement in a desperate attempt to scribble my story down before it escapes through the cracks in the wall and before the rain renders it illegible. The sun eventually breaks from the clouds. A few hours later I’m in a pub with a girl having drinks over friendly conversation. We talk about music and traveling, and leave the pub for some Turkish dinner and a few bowls of hookah. We order two bottles of wine and laugh our way back to the train station when it gets late, slipping all over each other and smiling and talking about Barcelona and the concert in mid-June that I should buy tickets for. The escalator takes us deeper into the tube station and I jump from step to step watching the girl smile at my silliness. Then the train comes and we part ways at Bank Street and I open the door to my flat barely in time to fall on the couch in a gracefully wicked flop. I wake at 4am with a creak in my neck and throw my clothes on the ground and spin myself further into sleep while the soundless television lights up my drunk face in those peacock colors life occasionally throws your way. I dream of the dog, and of the animals that have been in my life: Babe and Molly and Skeeter and Herman and Shiloh and Shea and Hannah. I even dream of the fish I have flushed down the toilet and the fish I have buried whose gills were far too important for a porcelain flushing. And when the morning light lifts my eyelids, I finish a story I have worked on for some time, and walk back into the world that continues to fill up with rain, and sit in a café where I read a few clever lines in a book, lost in deep contemplation, until the time comes for me to pick up my watery thoughts and move on to the next destination in London, because I only have another week in this town before Paris greets me with its French, and Barcelona greets me with its sunshine and warm weather and the possibility of writing with Europe on a peaceful afternoon near the ocean…


15 thoughts on “Third Floor Poverty

  1. Beautifully written piece that provides insight both to your experiences and to your love and skill when it comes to telling stories…

    Thanks for sharing 🙂 I agree, tales like this really do deserve to be published!

    Miss Lou

    • Wow…your comment made my week! I honestly love that you enjoy my storytelling form of writing…since I’ve been traveling around Europe, I’ve seen so many places and things that have totally inspired my writing. When someone says they can picture what I am writing about, I get a big smile on my face! Thanks so much again for the compliments!!! Can’t wait to read more of your writing!!!

      • 😀 YAY for feeling weak (I think) right.. sounds kind of like a good thing.. lol

        You have a lovely writing style that is easy to read and really connects us with your character and places.

        Thanks again!

      • lol @ my own correction of a typo that didn’t even exist… Apologies. It must have been 4am and I was suffering a case of Thunderbrain!

        Look forward to it!

  2. There’s a rhythm to the words that almost makes it sound like a poetry and the imagery you use is so evocative…Great work!

    • What a great compliment! I have been away from my computer for a while and was pleasantly surprised to see your comment waiting for me when I signed back on. Thank you incredibly much for taking the time to read my writing. I sincerely appreciate your support!

  3. Here’s to the peacodk in each of us, waiting to spread the colors and the voice that travels deep into the woods aglo in the full-moon night! May those of import here the calling. Here’s to words not wasted, and there subtile meanng. Dad

  4. I don’t know what place journalism has in this entertainment focused world. writing like this, your writing, communicates to me more than anything I see on television or read as “journalism”.
    Paris was magical for me. And I have seen so many stories of Barcelona but not made it there yet. So I know your adventure will certainly grow as you travel more.

    • What a wonderfully written response to my story. I am so thankful people like you read my blog, and am even more grateful that my words find their way into your life. I will certainly have more writing to come once I visit Paris and Barcelona so you’ll have to let me know what you think. I hope the sun is shining on you today, like it is here for me in London, and that you continue your own journey through writing because I love catching up on the meaningful blogs you publish that continue to make indentations on my writing mood.

  5. Journalism to me is a writer synthesizing signals and social networks into readable form, gathering the breadth of a watchful gaze over human activity pored over into language: speech and text, even so their violent wrongs, lingering in souls for a quoted passage; by his experience, paces out the punched context between single declaratives across articles gridded in spans of three fingers. We follow him as he traces a drumbeat path across paper trails and moneyed forests. He recruits a choir in silence and spills the raucous rag where the miscreants lay – preferring by trade or birth to gain and retain power, and likewise to maintain it, by the peace of us who slumber. By that measure, tracing a cunning man requires no small amount of creativity, while we preserve the myths and thoughts of dead men.

    Even so, I wish I could up and write stories.

  6. Awesome blog!!! You seriously need to be submitting this and other blogs to a magazine. They’re too good not to share with the world!!

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