Bottles and Wallets

Sitting in her balcony again, another pile of books, another five hours of homework.  Watching the world below her that fuels her imagination, brief respites from the relentless work she has to do.  Today it is not so busy, there are only a few people selling food, the bars empty, no stools out on the streets for the late night revelers to sit on.  The old lady is there again, looking through the rubbish bins, looking for the bottles.  Her bag seems less full today.  She sees her every night, a strange connection with a person she doesn’t know, may not even recognise if she saw her on the street.

The woman walks away, her bowed, unhappy with her days foraging.  The girl has a feeling of sadness and helplessness, there’s nothing she can do to help her.  She wonders if the woman has any family, if she does why aren’t they helping her?  She lets out a sigh and looks back to her books.  Turning the pages, not able to concentrate even though it is unusually quiet.  A man falls out of one of the bars, he crawls over to one of the people selling food, they look down at him and then move the cart on, the man gives up crawling and falls face first onto the floor.

The old lady has come back, her bag still half empty.  She walks over to one of the carts selling noodles, the owner becomes animated and she walks away.  She sits down on the curb of the pavement, head bowed again.  The girl goes inside with her books, she does not want to sit here and watch her desperate plight.  She sits down at her desk, tries to carry on reading her books but the words are just a blur, her mind elsewhere.  Curiosity takes her back out to the balcony, the woman is still sitting there, a passerby hands her a plastic bottle which he takes gratefully, but it’s still not enough.

The man who had fallen on the floor was crawling again, heading towards the same curb that the bottle collector is sitting on.  The girl has a feeling of fear, worrying what this drunk man might do to the lady.  The lady appears to notice him, edging away down the curb.  The man falls on his face again, not moving.  People walking past take no notice, maybe they are scared or they just don’t care.  The girl feels an anger rise inside her, a man in a helpless situation and an old lady forgotten by society side by side and no one cares.  The food sellers not even having the heart to feed her, the people walking past not having the heart to help him up.

Something is on the floor next to the man, a small black object that she can’t make out from high up on her balcony.  The old lady puts her bag down on the floor, and approaches the man.  Taps him on the face several times but there is no reaction.  She picks up the the black object, studying it, then puts it back inside the mans jacket pocket.  The girls attention focused on them, none of them have noticed that the bag of bottles have gone.  The old lady looks around desperately, asking the food sellers where it has gone, they all ignore her.  She sits back down on the curb, this time holding her head in her hands.

A tear runs down the girls face, there is nothing she can do.  The old lady is now standing again, she walks back towards the man, again tapping his face and still no reaction.  Giving up she walks away, no bag and no bottles, hungry and tired, still finding time to take care of someone she doesn’t know, someone that has far more than she does.  The girl rests her head on her arms and closes her eyes, she’ll sleep for an hour, hoping to dream of better things than what she has just seen, hoping to awake to see an old lady with a sack full of bottles, she won’t, but she can still hope.

This story is a continuation from another two that I wrote before:

Bottle Collector

Looking Down


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