My story would have ended there except for one thing. Well two things actually.
By the time I finally got my emotions under control I was back at the Mall. A few guys I knew greeted me with questions about where I disappeared to, as if I’d been gone for weeks not just a few days. They also commented, rather snarkily, on my clothes. I’d forgotten in my rush to get away from Sadron and everything he stood for that I was now decently dressed—at least compared to the other guys. I shrugged it off, telling them I’d gotten lucky when I hit up a clothing bank at one of the drop-in centers.
I did however decide I should change into my usual gear so I snuck into a john in a fast-food joint on the Mall. When I set my pack down on the sink and opened it I started swearing. Softly because I didn’t want anyone noticing me, but still… All my old clothes were gone, the new ones Sadron had paid for took their place, plus a good jacket I’d have bet used to belong to AJ. In the outer pocket of my pack I found soap, shampoo and other hygiene necessities.
You fucking bastard, you just can’t let it drop. How the hell am I going to convince anyone I need money when I’m dressed like a preppy high school kid playing at being homeless to get some drug money?
I found out when I started going through the rest of the pockets to see what other crap he’d gifted me with. In one was a long thick envelope. Not sure I wanted anyone seeing what it held I went into a stall, locking the door behind me.
When I tore it open I was expecting to find some cash, a payoff of sorts in his mind because I’d turned down his offer. There was money, quite a lot of it in fact. There was also a smaller envelope with an address on the outside and a note inside for the manager of the apartment building it belonged to. Yeah I looked at the not. I’m not dumb. I started to tear it up, stopped, and stuck in back in the larger envelope. Why? I couldn’t have said. Maybe common sense had kicked in. Maybe I figured I should get something—even in the short term—for what I’d been through.
I took a small part of the cash, stuffing it in the front pocket of my jeans where it’d be safe but accessible. The rest I split in two parts to put in my shoes after I worked the insoles loose. Then I put on the jacket, shouldered my pack and headed back to the street and Civic Center Station. I found out I’d just missed the bus I needed and another one wouldn’t be along for an hour, so I found a place to get a fast meal and ate while I waited.
It was a damned good thing I was going to the end of the line because I fell asleep on the bus and woke up in a panic when the driver shook my shoulder. It was late, too late I figured to find the apartment house and talk to the manager. My luck was with me, there was a small park across the street from the bus stop with enough trees I figured it would be a safe place to crash until morning. So I did.