They shout at the sky while rain pellets the grey streets. Tracksuit jackets over brown corduroy pants and duct-taped tennis shoes. They sit on corners, vacantly staring at something nobody else sees, a battered cup in front of them to catch the pitiful tributes that people offer them. They roam the parks, pushing carts filled with incomprehensible treasures, muttering seemingly random words, looting trashcans for breakfast, supper or lunch.
They are a sign of a thriving city. A blemish, but also an affirmation. For do they not scavenge for wealth carelessly thrown away by those who are able to live in abundance? These are the people who did not make it, those who got in over their heads, those who could not keep up with the rat race that is obligatory for a significant metropolis. Some call them parasites, others say they’re victims. Officials want to eradicate them, but what is a city without vagrants? Are they not, in some sense, a medal? A living testament of the decadence a city needs to be seen as worthwhile? When there are no vagabonds, there is nothing to gain, for they feed on the spoils of those more successful.
But what do they speak of, huddled together around an oil drum filled with burning trash? What tales do they weave while sharing a bottle of cheap liquor wrapped in brown paper? It is easy to forget that the stories we watch on our brightly lit screens from the safe comfort of our homes are all born from stories told ages ago around campfires, stories told to keep the darkness away. To make sense of it all, or even told to be able to laugh in the face of hardship. The same stories these unfortunates tell each other while the alcohol warms their souls, anything to keep the cold and wet at bay. Do they speak of those who made it back to the cold bosom of society? Or those who disappeared between the cracks of society altogether? Perhaps their tales are darker still, coarse and thick tongued whispers about somebody, something, thriving in exile. Giving boons to those who follow his, its, path. A speckle of hope in the gloom, burning even brighter on the fuel of second grade booze or diluted heroin. Something to dream about while rain soaks ragged sleeping bags. A king of rags and rotten teeth, a pope of trash and decay. Sitting on a throne of chicken bones and mangled spectacles, spewing forth prophecies and casting runes made from rusted scrap metal.