It was the book of his life.
Metaphorically and literally. He carried it everywhere, it didn’t matter the weather, or where he was, or what kind of place he ended up sleeping in, the book was by his side.
Strangely, it was one of the few things he had in a box just before bidding farewell to his house forever. Somehow, from thousands of books, that particular one was among the three that had survived the demolition of his patrimony and marriage of 25 years.
His life resembled a Gauss Bell curve. Surviving infancy in an abusive family and a horrid neighbourhood. Having to begin working when he was 11 by delivering take out to offices and nice houses, which provided him not only with tips money, but also free food. He was able to save, buy school items, and books. As many as he wanted. Since then, he worked hard at school and then at the job sites. It was relatively easy for him to climb the company ladder. A self-made man and very successful person in every sense. Until everything came crashing down.
First, the problems at work multiplied when his performance levels started to suffer. His own kids could not understand that alcoholism was an illness, and in his case, a genetically transmitted one. Then everything spiralled down in a vicious cycle right from the day he found his wife with someone else in his own bedroom, she blaming his general abandonment. The drinking increased and the problems became insufferable, the debt mounted, the social relationships changed drastically, and one thing led to another, until he found himself with no friends, no family, no money, and only a box in his hands, containing a photo, three books, miscellaneous things such as a ring, some pens, a t-shirt, and some other stuff that didn’t really make any sense, neither it appeared to belong to him, and a few others that apparently were valuable, monetarily speaking.
Everything in that box started to disappear as he moved from one shelter to another. Some things he gave away, others he sold or exchanged for a jacket, boots, or anything he thought was needed to survive the cold nights, when he was not in a shelter.
A grey beard grew quickly and abundantly, which he liked because it was like a mask. He barely spoke to anyone anymore now. His reading was slower due to the eyesight getting worse, on top of whatever affectation alcohol causes to his brain.
Years came and went, and sometimes he woke up to find his plastic bag full of cans and bottles gone, but his book he kept in a sealable bag inside his jacket. His most precious possession, the only thing that reminded him of his childhood and his successes. Although the novel’s plot, place, time, and the hero were off by a long shot, there were so many similarities that he considered it the book of his life. A few times he confided to some very specific people, like the lady at the soup place, or the volunteer doctor that checked on him every so often, that his wish was to be buried with that book, please, please.
This morning he woke up not on the bench, but by its side, and to the realization that the book was not in the bag, and it’s practically destroyed for being so battered, and now wet with pee, cheap vodka, and who knows what else.
An adult man weeping inconsolably, to whom nobody pays any attention, because everybody passing by thinks he’s under the influence. He’s saying he’s done, he’s saying that’s it. That is the last page. He’s made up his mind, and he will be gone, most probably today.
The book of his life. Precisely.