I strolled down the street, taking in the view of the dazzling lights. Neon signs, street lights, and headlights illuminated the city, contrasting the long, dark shadows of the looming buildings. I checked my suit to make sure all was in proper order for my meeting. In a few minutes I would be proposing a deal to some of the top business people to develop one of the poverty stricken areas of the city. I had to convince them fund the eviction of those lazy homeless people. Luckily, I knew one of them from business school so it shouldn't be too hard. While rehearsing my delivery, I bumped into one of the people I was about to evict. He looked like he hadn't eaten in months; he had sunken eyes, hollow cheekbones, and skinny limbs that would snap as easily as a pencil. He fell back against a wall and slumped on the ground.
"Watch where you're going skinny boy.", I spat.
He picked himself up and I saw a flash of anger in his eyes. Stumbling and yelling as he rose, he tried to shove me, but ended up on the ground yet again.
"You think you can walk all over me? You think just 'cause you're rich means you're better than me? Walking around with your suit, like you own the city. You make me sick." He propped himself up on a nearby wall and limped away.
Time froze. I remembered those words, the flash in his eyes, the in his voice. It was me, just a few years ago. I remembered the resentment I held for those rich, snobby kids. But I wasn't from a rich family, I earned all my money through hard work. This bozo had no right to accuse me. I walked on, hurrying to make sure I wasn't late for the meeting so I could eliminate those leeches of society like that guy. I'm not a rich snob; he was wrong. I earned my money. What does he know anyway? It's people like him who ruin the good image of our city.
Finally reaching the office building, I entered the elevator and pressed the button for the third floor. Stupid homeless people, they couldn't just work for money like I did. Lazy is what they are, and they deserve to be evicted. As I exited the elevator and walked to the meeting room, I stopped and breathed deeply, trying to calm myself and collect my thoughts. I turned the knob and strolled into the room.
"Hurry up, you're late and I don't have all day.", he said.
"Y-Yes of course sir.", I stammered.
I fumbled with my papers and hurried to turn the computer presentation on. What was wrong with me? I never was this anxious in a meeting before. I still couldn't get the encounter with that homeless person out of my head. Why was he so angry at me? What did I ever do to him? Stop it, I told myself. Get the presentation started, explain it, make some more money, and go home. I finally got the computer working and started explaining my development proposal with all the flair I could muster. I finished the pitch and waited patiently for a response. He sat there, probably amazed at what a good proposal it was.
"Well your idea is good, but where will you move all the citizens to accommodate your development?"
"Well they'll just have to find another place to live, it's not my fault that they happen to live where I plan to develop."
"That's because they can't afford to live anywhere else, and besides, it will create a lot of bad publicity on our part."
"Their financial troubles are not my problem, if they need money they can work for it, like the rest of us productive citizens do already. This development is extremely lucrative and you know it."
"I'm sorry, I can't just evict these people and force them to live on the streets. I wouldn't be able to sleep at night. Find other investors; I can't help you."
I was really angry. Why should aspirations of the great be constrained by the needs of the weak? We could rule this city, if it weren't for sentimental pricks like this guy. He was weak; I told him so.
"You're weak. Just wait and see, this will happen, and I'll be the richest man in the city. You weaklings won't stop me, and in the end it'll be you coming to me with proposals."
He took it all in without flinching. How could he? If someone had said that to me I'd be furious. He replied in a calm, even tone.
"I'm weak? No, you're weak. You spend so much time scheming to make money and exploiting others to realize that. Where are your friends? Your family? You claim to be superior and yet you have nothing worth having."
I shut off the computer and stormed out of the office, leaving a flurry of papers in my wake. That overly righteous, arrogant, weakling. People like him were better off in the streets with the rest of his type. Maybe the investor and that bag of bones I bumped into could have a chat. They seemed to have a lot in common. Furious, I walked back to my car and drove home.
I pulled my car into the garage, relieved to be home where I could be rid of all those tiresome nuisances out in the city. As I walked up the stairs, the house seemed strangely empty. I entered my room and looked around. The blank walls stared back at me. I had thought of decorating them with pictures, but nothing was worth remembering. I would rather save the space for future memories. I could envision it now, "Richest man ever receives key to city." I lay down in my bed and reflected on the day's events. I still couldn't forget the accusing stare of that homeless person. It would probably never leave me. It struck me how much he looked like me, if I was malnourished and in dirty clothes. It reminded me of my family, living in the old, abandoned house down the road until it was torn down to make way for a new building. Where was my family indeed? It was likely they had starved on the cold, unforgiving streets. Suddenly, I had an urge to go through my old boxes. I had no idea what I was looking for but I knew I was looking for something. I searched and searched until I came across an old family photo, torn at the edges and weathered. I looked at my mother's face and a sob arose in my throat as I realized I would never see her again. My whole family gone, and for what? This life I had now, was it worth it? Why do I need these lavish sheets, this opulent house, this costly suit? I looked at the blank walls again; they were mocking me, reflecting the blankness of my life in my surroundings. Mom, Dad, where are you? Jane, sweet sister, I need you. They're all gone. Damn it all, what was the point?
I took the lamp and hurled it into the wall, desperate to get rid of it's mocking gaze. It shattered with a bang as the light bulb exploded. I laughed, probably the first time I laughed since I lived on the streets. Hysterically, I ran down the stairs and into the garage. I picked up a couple of containers of gasoline and reentered the house. I poured it on everything, the walls, the carpet, the counters. Lastly, I lit a match and threw it down. The house burst into flames around me. Good. Let it all burn. Let it all burn down. The whole house was ablaze now; there was nowhere to go. The flames licked at my shoes and I could feel the heat. I smiled and embraced the heat, and in my mind, blazing hotter than the fire, was the photo of my family, accompanying me into the roaring flames.
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