He was an animal. He was not a human being. Elle grimaced at the man as he scavenged like a vulture through the bin. Where there should have been a delicate breath of fog in the crisp winter air, a heavy plume of smoke slithered its way into both the air and the lungs. He trudged, barefoot, to the park bench across the street with his pathetic accomplishment of a dirt-covered chip.

Wrapping himself in a blanket, which he probably stole, he hugged his knees to his chest. Obviously the street cleaners hadn’t done their job very thoroughly, for there was rubbish still clinging to the city’s park benches. It is what it is. Elle shuddered, letting her poor eyes rejuvenate back inside the cafe. As she sipped on her coffee (which was a bit lacklustre), she waited for her interviewee. Her mushroom bruschetta became the subject of scrutiny under the pendant lights that hung from the sculptural, timber ceiling, illuminating the cafe with a harsh white light that competed against the sunlight that flooded through the tall, glass windows. A woman strutted past her table. Elle could have sworn that she smirked at her as she pulled out her wallet from her leather bag, exposing the two interlinked C’s that spelled out her pride.

Did she just raise her eyebrow at Elle’s deceptively simple outfit? Doesn’t she know that money can’t buy happiness? Elle instinctively stretched and flicked her hair, uncovering her fake Cartier necklace. Elle’s gaze wandered back outside, where the homeless man’s grimy toes poked out from under the blanket. He obviously needed a job, but instead he was lazing around on the bench hiding under his ripped hoodie. What he probably didn’t understand was that nothing will work unless you do. Begging is not work, not that he was doing it. Elle was the perfect product of hard work; people didn’t understand how difficult it was to go through years of schooling (pre-school and primary school and high school) so that she could finally take over her father’s diner.

Outside, the homeless man seemed to be ranting to himself. Then, he pointed at the air in front of him and exploded into hysterical laughter, which then evolved into a coughing fit. So, he was a junkie. What goes around comes around. Suddenly, he began walking towards the cafe. Elle had never feared for her life more as he continued to trudge through the door. That is, until he introduced himself as her interviewee and offered her his soiled hand. His bipolar emotions now seemed to materialise into a polite smile, conveniently, but it could not hide his ripped, faded hoodie and his overgrown beard. “So,” Elle recoiled at his hand and sat down, crossing her arms, “tell me about your experience.” “I was employed for a few years at the bistro down the street, with a range of responsibilities as both a waiter and” “I meant your life experience.” “I beg your pardon?”

“Parents kick you out? You run away?” He calmly explained that he was a war veteran; he must have been extremely skilled in the art of lying. “Much of this job entail, I mean, calls for you to be writing down the orders of customers.” “I am very much aware of what this job…entails.”

Elle glared at him, waiting for him to respond to her question, but his incompetent mind did not register her expectations of him and they sat in silence. His eyes darted around the cafe, unable to focus on Elle. “So can you write?” He paused before replying with a robotic “yes”, his expression remaining blank. Until his mouth broke into a wide smile. His laughter was uncontrollable as Elle watched him in horror, feeling the gaze of everyone in the cafe on her. He clasped his hand over his mouth.

“I am so sorry.” “Excuse me, there is absolutely nothing funny about this job position! How dare you laugh at the woman you wish to call your employer. Is it because I am a woman? How dare you!”

“My apologies, I didn’t mean to laugh ma’am. It’s not something within my control, but I assure you that it won’t affect my work.” “What are you on?” Elle suspiciously looked at him. The homeless man looked at her with confusion. “Do you mean to inquire what I am being treated with?”” he asked. “Largactil…for my schizophrenia,” he reluctantly added.

Elle cleared her throat, straightening up. “We are out of time. I will contact you when I reach my final decision.” She paused. “How will I contact you?” “My phone number is on the contact sheet.” Phone? Elle breathed a sigh of relief as he left the cafe. Through the window, she could see him wander aimlessly around outside before returning to his bench, kneeling down with his upturned hat. She scoffed.

Why was it that homeless men could have money dropped into their hands while Elle, who had suffered the emotional turmoil of education, had to endure the arduous task of climbing the ladder of schooling to assume her father’s position at the diner?

As her life coach would say, “”if you get knocked down, then get back up. It’s that simple.”” There are certain universal truths in life: What the mind can conceive, it can achieve. The homeless man fiddled with the twenty cent coin in his upturned hat. Do or do not, there is no try. He just needed to find another job. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. He laughed.