Getting Lost by Elizabeth O'Shea

“Oh get lost you, stupid girl ” he screamed at me on that awful day. So that’s exactly what I did. I left. I turned my back on him with his rage and control issues and that meant on my mother too. 

Now I am officially homeless, a tramp. A seller of the Big Issue

I’m lucky really, I’ve got a good spot near the entrance to Hymarket with a proper wooden seat and everything. I can just about keep dry under the awning if it’s raining softly. Of course the Hymarket manager tries to get rid of me every day but as I am on the public street there’s not much he can do, except shout and I’m used to that . I have two sets of friends, my Hymarket friends and my camp friends. Hymarket 

friends are mostly older women, who bring me hot coffee and buns. It’s often the men who throw money at me and won’t look me in the eyes. But I need the money so I just say, “God bless you sir” when they do. 

They always look surprised and then they look at my face which makes me feel more human again. It’s a saying I learnt from Sarah, she’s a camp friend and an old hand. She says she has been on the road for 25 years. I shuddered when she told me that. In 25 years time I want to have a house and two grown up kids and a job, maybe as a 

P. a fashion designer or running a beauty salon, I can’t decide which. I imagine there will be a husband somewhere in the background but he seems to be fairly indistinct and unimportant . 

When Hymarket’s shut, I walk the two miles to the camp which is now my home. There are about 6 of us homeless people. Four of us have tents and two make do with newspaper and plastic sheeting. That’s how I was, until Sarah arrived and

invited me to share her tent, it's squash but we keep each other warm. Someone usually builds a fire and we all sit round and share whatever food or drink we have. I don’t touch the alcohol, as in my ten months of “getting lost,” I have seen the desperation it can cause. Same with drugs too. It’s ironic really that Mums boyfriend refused to believe me when I told him that when the party was raided I was neither stoned or drunk. That’s when we had the argument but really it was just the last straw. I had resented his authority from the start, especially as Mum just seemed to hand it over to him from the first day. 

Anyway, I had a new life now, albeit a pretty rough one and a new family, too. I sat warming my hands by the fire and Sarah came and sat beside me. “What’s up love?” she said. 

“Nothing, just daydreaming.” 

“Are you thinking about your Mum”? 

“No” I lied. 

We had had this conversation before. Sarah was always trying to get me to ring Mum, saying how worried she must be but I couldn’t forgive her for not taking my side and for all I knew, she was pleased to be alone with whatshisface and not missing me at all. That night I did feel sad but what could I do? I took out my phone and looked at the photo of Mum. The phone had a little credit on it and the battery was low but I kept it for emergencies and for the photos. 

I was at my usual place outside Hymarket the following morning when the manager came out for his daily rant. 

“We don’t want your sort here, our customers don’t need to see the likes of you, you lazy ****, why don’t you go and get a job.” 

I noticed his face got redder and redder as he shouted but I was deaf and blind to it and just turned in on myself until he went back inside the shop. Except today, for some reason, I felt shaken. I rummaged in my pocket for my mobile phone, wanting 

to see Mums face again. I panicked a little when I couldn’t find it and then remembered putting it on the floor of the tent that morning when I was tugging my Doc Martin boots on, I must have forgotten to pick it up again, I wanted to cry and struggled to hold in the tears. 

It started to rain about midday and as the wind was blowing into me I got soaked. My usual old ladies were obviously staying at home, so by the time evening came I was shivering, miserable and very hungry. 

As I approached the camp, I caught a whiff of smoke and the thought of the warm fire spurred me to a quicker pace and I made the last few metres very quickly. The fire was blazing and everyone was chatting animatedly. Sarah had her back to me and a figure was sitting in my usual seat. I felt annoyed and rushed up intending to oust the person from my place, double quick. As I approached the figure the words died on my lips and my heart gave a great lurch. 

“Mum, is that you Mum?” I stumbled forward and was clasped in her arms “Oh thank God I’ve found you at last Tasha, Oh love I’ve been looking for you since the day you left, are you alright? Why didn’t you phone? What have you been doing? ” The questions tumbled out of her not waiting for an answer. 

I couldn’t speak anyway. I just cried and cried. She made me sit down between her

and Sarah and fed me hot coffee and sausage rolls. I felt a little calmer then and she told me she had asked the boyfriend to leave a few days after I had gone, when he had seemed to be positively triumphant about me going , 

“Like he had been planning it all along”, she said. 

“How did you find me, Mum?” I asked at last. 

Mum turned to Sarah... 

“ It was this lady who rang me today and of course I drove straight here “. I looked at Sarah and held out my hand for my phone. She took it from inside the top of her boot. 

“Just keeping it safe for you love” she shrugged, 

I didn’t know whether to be angry or grateful. 

The upshot is that I am back home with Mum now and tomorrow I start a new job with the local council. It’s not the most exciting job ever but my secret plan is to get myself into a position where I can really help all those Big Issue, homeless people, like Sarah. Mum did offer her a home with us but she refused. I think she was scared to be indoors after such a long time, maybe she was afraid of feeling shut in by a house. Anyway, I try to visit her once a week and so far I have been able to keep track of her but I do worry she will “get lost” permanently. 

Published in Issue #11

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