It's no secret that I have, in these latter stages of my existence, become inextricably entangled in the misery of perpetual poverty. On occasion, when younger and considerably less fiscally challenged, I would find myself a bit short of readies after one of the weekends of debauchery that I regularly enjoyed whilst still among the vibrancy of Manchester (If you're from outside the UK, you may know Manchester as "Shit London") but I'd have a full tummy all week, I'd still smoke and the bills would all still get paid on time. Many a Monday morning I would describe myself as not having a "pot to piss in" while munching on a bacon and sausage sandwich in the crew room at work.
I was very ignorant.
During the lowest point of my plunge into the despair in which I now dwell I'd found myself in a routine where I would eat one evening meal every other day. Eventually, I began to struggle to supply sufficient provisions for even this meager diet and would occasionally go three and sometimes four days without eating.
To be clear, I mean not eating, not one single morsel, not even a cornflake, would pass my lips. I lost weight, muscle, hair and, eventually, all self respect.
I own dogs. I owned dogs when I was well off and I own those same dogs to this day. They, unlike me, have eaten well throughout even the darkest of my days. They were, and remain, my priority, the only things I have that I care for and from the moment I'd rescued the first from the shelter I had made a commitment. A commitment I have found difficult, one that has caused me seemingly endless worry at times, but one that I have taken seriously and have fulfilled.
Some might say "You could've sold those dogs and eaten, they're only dogs" and to those people I say "fuck off". But I digress...
It was a dark and, this being Horwich, stormy night in December. I was walking my commitments before retiring to the relative comfort of my hot water filled duvet and sign off on another day survived. It was pub chucking out time and the local "traditional English" chippy (run by a chap named Stavros and serving such delicacies as the traditional British donner kebab and pizza) was in the midst of it's busy period. I held my breath as I approached, as I did every night at this point on our excursion so as not to smell the food being prepared and enjoyed by those who would have full tummies all week, would probably still smoke and who wouldn't be fearing the bailiffs knock whilst describing themselves as being without a pot should the need to relieve themselves arise.
A chap in a hi-vis jacket and rigger boots exited the chippy as we approached. He'd plainly enjoyed a good few hours of hard drinking and seemed to be suffering from Tourette's syndrome as he bid the chip shop staff farewell before bouncing off a lamppost and weaving his way up the hill in front of me. As he walked he opened the container he carried. The tantalising aroma of kebab meat with extra chili sauce filled the air and, now unable to avoid inhaling those meaty fumes as I walked in his wake, my mouth immediately began to water.
He removed a strip of the greasy meat and held it high above his head, lowering it into his upturned mouth and greedily swallowing it as a fledgling would a fat, juicy worm. His mouth quickly free to receive a second strip, he selected one from the tangled mass within the container and began to raise it aloft. He paused on the pavement, inspected the strip of meat clasped between his fingertips and, having decided that this piece carried too much sauce, proceeded to toss it onto the floor before continuing on his merry-as-a-newt way home. I stopped in my tracks.
It was a sizable piece of meat, lying there on a patch of pavement and kept dry from the sleet that had begun to replace the more usual rain by virtue of it's close proximity to a wall. The red sauce shimmered in the light cast by the nearby streetlamp.
I looked around to see if anyone was watching.
A woman was following me up the hill. She smiled nervously as our eyes met and she saw me, standing there in the rain when all other's were rushing to get indoors. She crossed the street and I waited for her to pass, already having decided that the need to sate the pain I felt to be greater than the need for any dignity and actually looking forward, excitedly, to eating a piece of discarded fast food from a gutter. Once the lady had passed I turned and stooped to secure my bounty, just in time to see my favourite commitment lick her chili sauce stained dog-lips.
There's gratitude for you.
They say the darkest hour comes before the dawn. The following day we were awarded a food parcel by the Salvation Army. It saved our lives, of that I have no doubt. My thoughts that night had been far darker than even I, with my penchant for all things noir, care to share.
When I was young, at about the same time that I'd discovered dancing and debauchery in the flesh pots of my closest Metropolis, there seemed to be a constant stream of images on the evening news showing children so weak from hunger that they didn't possess the strength to blink away a vomiting fly. They had suffered to a far greater extent than I ever have, I was still able to go without a meal so I could buy a sack of dog food, they'd surely have eaten the dog food. They'd lie motionless, appearing to me to be slipping away slowly and in an almost dignified manner. It never occurred to me that they were in agony but too weak to react to it, locked inside a withering shell as their core writhed in agony and flies lapped at their excretions. An image on a television can't portray the hell being suffered inside a soul. They would have given anything, betrayed every shred of human dignity, for a morsel of meat such as that my dog enjoyed on the pavement up the hill from the kebab shop. I know they would have, because even with my (far less extreme but still bloody painful) limited experience of starvation I, too, would have.
I've been hungry again recently. Not as hungry as back then, but still bloody hungry. It doesn't worry me greatly though, even given that my starting position this time is so far lower than that which I held when I began the initial slippery slide. I'll either fail or prevail, time will tell, and either way it won't matter in this whole, great, grand scheme of shit. Not to me at least, though the dogs might get a little pissed off when they try and boil the kettle to make their tea. Hopefully, they'll get hungry before I start to rot so I can continue to provide from beyond the grave.
After all, I made a commitment and one should never be afraid to fulfill a commitment.
No matter what the situation, there is great dignity in fulfilling a commitment made. It might be hard, it may hurt, it might cost you dear and there's a possibility the ultimate fulfillment comes as the result of your dogs noshing away on your most succulent parts and any of your steaming offal that they manage to expose with their frantic clawing and tearing, but nothing fills a chest with pride like a job of such magnitude being so well done.
Righteous pride in one's actions can be as comforting as the smell of hot rubber coming from beneath a duvet.
There's a chance that those around you won't know or appreciate the effort you've put in but it's important to see something through to the end. Maybe don't feed animals at the expense of yourself, but remember the little commitments you make every day. Those promises and arrangements made, those children that are currently annoying you but that will hopefully one day chip in to help with your trip to Dignitas and those commitments you make to yourself, they're all important. And remember...
...almost every commitment can be fulfilled without the need for a painful death on the floor of a cold home.