He Used to be Someone

Solomon pulled his coat tighter around him. The Lands’ End parka was probably useful in a past life to the original wearer, but now worn and tattered, was woefully inadequate for keeping anyone warm through a New England winter. But Solomon was a person of limited choices.

As he shuffled across the street, with his head held low, he couldn’t help but think:

“I used to be someone.”

Solomon had no other possessions but the clothes on his body and a backpack which he had acquired a long time ago from someone else’s trash. It held everything he owned from a life he no longer claimed to possess.

Gone are the days of frivolity and excess. The days when he wielded power and authority.

He used to rule the board room with an iron fist, famous for his outrageous rantings.

“You, girl! Get off the damn phone and stop gossiping with your friends!” he once shouted at Lisa, who had only just walked in and answered her ringing phone, when Solomon happened to walk by.

“Women should only be paid half as much as men! They’re out of office one week out of every month, aren’t they?” he guffawed with the Marketing Manager, who shakily laughed in agreement with his boss.

He screamed at his administrative assistant and berated him when he chose to take time off to see his children’s soccer matches.

“Don’t you have a wife to do that? I thought getting a male assistant meant I didn’t have to put up with all your personal business!”

A thin layer of frost blanketed the pathways, remnants of the light snow that descended a few hours earlier. Now that it was late evening, the frost hung around, unyielding, as the temperature fell to a brisk 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

The store windows screamed their wares and price discounts of the season and shoppers weaved through the stores taking advantage of all the deals. Solomon stopped to rest outside “Lee’s Sixth Avenue.” Seemed as good a place as any other. At 62 years old and homeless he wasn’t as fit as he used to be. Since the last time he slept at the Bay Street Shelter several months of new growth extended his graying beard. But he found that living rough on the streets was safer than staying awake every night and fighting to keep hold of what little possessions he still had.

"Paddington" by Stewart Black
“Paddington” by Stewart Black

Passersby avoided him and fanned the air as they walked past. He didn’t care. A shower this week would be welcome, though. Solomon rearranged the newspapers he had stuffed under the front of his clothing. Next year he really should find somewhere more southern to live. He rubbed his hands together to warm his fingers despite the three knitted gloves that he wore.

Ten years ago, Solomon would have shopped at “Lee’s”  — before the stock market crash — before the divorce. Before the lawyers decided that the company was no longer a viable going concern for stockholders.

Before he lost everything. Ten thousand worthless shares in the company he used to own.

He fixed his woolly hat over his ears and picked up his backpack. No point in hanging about here. No one wanted him around anymore and his financial advice, once gospel, was now useless. Time to move on.



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