Rain always made people run, while nature basked in the soaking, humans ran from it constantly. Supermarket parking lots was where the panic set in the most, folks dashing from the brightly lit warmth of the store and hot-footing it to their cars with wonky cart wheels that cut into forming puddles. So scared of a little water, all of them. Each and every one of them were waterproof and most of the contents of their carts was too. A human body would eventually disintegrate in water, if it was a dead one that is. A body incapable of movement would eventually become one with the water. Jensen knew that too well, he remembered long baths from when he was five, the kind you had as a kid after playing outside in the yard all day. The kind whereby you dipped the grass stained soles of your feet into the water and slowly turned it green. His mother would scrub his tiny toes until he was giggling and not let him get out until his body was wrinkled and pale from too long a soak. That was wet.
Wet was being turned away from the supermarket because Jensen looked grubby, he hadn’t seen a roof for a week or two and after being shooed away from the sheltered entrance too, his drenched body could do little else but slump again the brick wall and tuck itself under a dripping rain gutter. The heavens had opened that afternoon and the walk along the sloping bank of the highway which Jensen knew led to shelter had soaked him. And he knew how soaked he was because his toes felt five year-old wrinkled in an overlong bath through sneakers that were summer ready and a pair of socks; his feet were was wet as a persons could have been while still being alive. At least the book was dry.
Over the years, Jensen had found the most profitable place to beg was outside the supermarket, on occasion the inside if he looked fit and clean enough to mingle with the customers. Anywhere like train stations, subways or bus terminals were the worst. The entire world was in a hurry and none more so than those in the throes of using public transport. Everyone looked mean, harassed and tired or were on another planet listening to music and bobbing their heads or had their faces buried in books. Jensen liked those people the most, the ones who read books. The titles were always jumbled but he liked to memorize the covers on the ones that caught his eye the most. One day, he would have a bookshelf in a room in a home of his own with all of those books. One day.
The rain eased and stopped abruptly just after dark giving Jensen the perfect window to clean up his face and change his appearance slightly. It had been a tough few weeks so he knew that he wasn’t looking or smelling his best. The midnight blue SUV that was parked closest to where he was sheltering had huge wing mirrors and was only recently parked up by the owner, a woman with two small children who had been begging for candy before they had even entered the store. The rain drop covered mirror was perfect for Jensen to quickly steal his reflection to wash his face and neck with the soaked cuff of his black hoodie. After years of being on the streets, he knew that wearing his hood up made him look more shady than he actually was. Jensen’s face worked in his favor more times than he could count because people were shallow like that. If there was an old dog with one eye and a bouncy little puppy left on the side of the road, people would generally help the puppy.
With a cleaner face than it had been five minutes ago and fluffy hair dried off with the hand towel he kept in his waterproof backpack, Jensen wandered confidently toward the supermarket and thanked whoever that so much time had elapsed from his last try that the security guard who had initially turned him away had finished his shift.
“You got a soaking.” The new security guard chuckled as Jensen walked past him.
“Yep, happy to be inside.” Jensen grinned and there he was, just for a few seconds, a functioning member of society. A pretty boy who had gotten caught in the rain on the way to a regular trip to the supermarket.
Jensen loved a supermarket, especially when he was decent enough to be allowed inside one, because he blended in. And because of all the stuff. Stuff he couldn’t often buy, stuff he rarely stole but did on occasion when he was starving. Although he would never ever call it that. Very hungry was what it was. Jensen didn’t like to steal because once when he was fifteen, he got caught and was sent to a place for wayward boys and was told to stay until his father was contacted. And Jensen did tell them that his father would never come and get him nor take responsibility for him either so he left because it was the kind of place that was easy for a boy like Jensen to just walk out of. From that point, he stole rarely, begged often, once took a job on a construction site and when things got real bad he hooked. But not often because not a lot made Jensen miserable in his small life but hooking brought him down and he didn’t like the person he became during those rare times. Jensen had no one else but himself for company so he needed to make sure he liked himself enough to stick around, if you understand the meaning. No one wants a miserable friend, particularly when that friend is yourself.
Bright lights and muzak warmed Jensen’s soul. The smell of freshly baked bread and pastries made his stomach grumble and the endless rows of color, candy, cereal and potato chips sent him back to his brief childhood. Jensen liked the clean floor and the way everything on the shelves was so ordered, he liked the yellow price labels too. Occasionally Jensen would walk into a supermarket and watch the vegetables take a shower or gaze at roasted chickens spinning on vertical spits, sizzling golden brown and coated with barbeque sauce. Jensen found it strange that the customers whom he tried to blend in with always looked so sad, mad and stressed out. Didn’t they know how lucky they were, all that choice, all that goodness laid out for them. Jensen felt very lucky just to be there and that night, luckier still as he noticed a man in a jaunty white hat wheel out a metal trolley loaded with reduce price baked goods. He fingered the small amount of change in the pocket of his damp jeans, trying to remember how much was there. Jensen wasn’t good with numbers but he knew the coins and most people were honest when he got confused and just laid the change on the counter to take what was needed. It wasn’t often either that Jensen had money, it was usually the money rattled but on good days a generous soul would give him the kind that folded. Finding pocket change was more profitable in certain places, people would have been amazed by the sheer amount of money they stepped over on the side walk or left behind in phone booths.
The man in the jaunty hat set the trolley of paper wrapped goodies by a second metal frame with other reduced items because it was that time of day whereby the store was wrapping up for the night and keen to sell whatever they had left. For Jensen it was much better and much more civilized to buy rather than dumpster dive. Not that raiding supermarket or restaurant trash was beneath him because eating food from a dumpster hadn’t been the worst thing he had ever done to survive. Jensen grabbed himself a slice of pizza, a pastry shaped like a crescent moon from the baked goods trolley and a battered can of something anonymous with no label, he slipped the small travel toothbrush and toothpaste with its torn packaging into his pocket, hiding the fact by pretending to juggle the three other items in his arms. Jensen couldn’t remember the last time he had brushed his teeth so saw it as a necessary steal and it wasn’t like he was going to be able to visit the dentist any time soon any way.
The lady at the cash register was nice as she rung up Jensen’s food, she commented on his green eyes as most people did and even packed his three items into bag for him because ‘It looks like rain again, dear’. Jensen felt guilty about the toothbrush and toothpaste, as if he had stolen from the cashier directly so he put one of his smaller coins, the little bronze color ones he always had a lot of into a charity box by the register. The lady called him a generous boy and Jensen thought that she didn’t take enough money from him when he laid his pocket change on the counter because she had winked at him and pushed most of it back toward him. Jensen thought she must have been a mom.
After ten years of living on the streets, Jensen had learned a lot. So much that he could have written a book about it but he wasn’t so good with the writing either or the reading, he got by and knew how to write his name and a few other choice phrases when it was needed and he knew some of the words, the little ones mostly like ‘the’, ‘and’ and ‘love’. Love was the biggest word he knew how to read and the one that meant the most. Learning on the streets meant noticing everything around him, he supposed that meant he was ‘street smart’ because some folks in his travels had called him that. But it had been vital for Jensen to keep his eyes open at all times. From the moment he had packed a bag and walked away from his abusive father when he was thirteen years old, his eyes had been pinned open after making a succession of rookie mistakes which he quickly learned from.
Jensen had to behave as if his very being was made of eyes just to keep himself safe and he was proud that he had managed to do so for a decade. It had been the eighties when he first left and Jensen had been drifting from place to place ever since. Lucky then, that the lesson of keeping his pretty green eyes peeled that he had noticed the tail end of an abandoned van jutting out behind a row of trees as the highway split off toward yet another small Oregon town which he hoped would be his bed for the night or maybe a few. It had stopped raining as he walked back toward the highway but the night had turned cold and Jensen hadn’t been inside the supermarket long enough to fully dry off. But that was fine, he had been colder and hungrier before and the thought of pizza, dessert and the mystery canned item warmed him as he approached the van.
The front part of the vehicle where the engine had been was burnt to a crisp and was already starting to rust. Jensen gave the van a shove with his shoulder, noting that it was solidly placed and not likely to go rolling down the bank and onto the highway once he was inside it. The back end was untouched and had been cleaned by the rain several times over. Jensen slid the side door open and inhaled deeply then reached inside to feel around because the amber lighting from the busy road next to him wasn’t casting quite enough light for him to see well. The van was dry inside and there was no burned smell to live with and the padded bench seat was just about wide enough for Jensen to sleep on.
“Well, looks like I got a home for a few days.” Jensen chuckled, setting his groceries and backpack down on the floor of the van which he opened so he could dig around to find his torch because he had to be absolutely sure that the van was safe. Once found, the torch flickered to life and Jensen cast the beam around the van which had a little flora growing inside and jackpot, an unopened six pack of water bottles. For Jensen, it had been a very good day.
Before he could even think about eating, drinking or settling down for the night, Jensen had to run through an inventory of the contents of his backpack. It had become a habit of his on the occasion of finding someplace dry and sheltered to stay to go through his few but treasured worldly possessions. It helped him to appreciate what he had and he enjoyed looking at everything because he rarely got the chance to. Jensen’s backpack was fancy and well looked after so it often went a little way to help him fit into society, it had also been his largest steal in size terms. Jensen had stolen it because of the book and after he had outgrown the backpack he had used to run away with which had never been waterproof, it had became a problem because of that. The camping store had stuff hanging outside and as customers walked inside, racks of walking boots and sample backpacks swinging from hooks over the entrance. It had been a risky steal, right there in the view of everyone inside and outside but Jensen had gotten away with it that day, pulled all the paper stuffing out of it and cut the labels off with his teeth in an alleyway close by then walked out onto the street with it on his back. That had been four years ago in Southern California and the backpack was still going strong. A normal person would have gotten their moneys worth, Jensen was just thankful the book was being kept safe.
Jensen dug around for the plastic sheeting first, the kind people who have houses used to cover their carpets while they painted. Jensen had lifted it from a DIY store along with a small flat head screw driver, he had paid for the Philips one. The sheeting had come in handy more times than Jensen could remember and was perfect for sheltering from the rain and laying out the contents of his backpack. It had been a while so he had forgotten about the clean t-shirt that he had washed and hung to dry by that river a few weeks ago before the rainy season had kicked in. Next to it he set down a Zip-Lock bag full of free food items that people find in cafes and food courts; packets of salt and black pepper, ketchup and mustard, sugar (white and brown), Sweet n’ Low, creamer, twin packets of Saltine crackers which Jensen was sick of but were handy to have in an emergency. In a second Zip-Lock he had napkins, wooden stirrers, plastic cutlery and wet wipes from KFC.
From there he laid out everything else; spare batteries for his torch, five assorted cakes of motel soap, two screwdrivers, a ball of string, a small brown envelope full of coins from other countries, a pen and two sheets of paper folded up as small as they would go, seven matchbooks, a rock with a naturally formed heart shape on it, a leather belt with no buckle, the t-shirt he had left home in which hadn’t fit him for a good many years, a Zippo lighter with a skull on it that he had found under a motel bed one night, a map, a half full tube of lube, a carton of Camels with two other brand cigarettes in it, his spare pair of boxer shorts which he set aside to wash during his stay in the van and lastly, the book. The beautiful book and inside the one photograph Jensen had of he and his mother together. The book was set down in the center as the heart of his possessions as it always had been.
“My stuff.” Jensen said with a grin as he cracked open the case of water and drank down half of one bottle then feasted himself on the pizza slice and the crescent moon pastry.
It had been a good day as far as days in the life of Jensen Ackles went because despite everything that had happened to him when his world fell apart when he was just five years old, he remained forever happy. Bad/sad days were rare because he was eternally grateful for so much, things that regular folk took for granted every day of their lives. Jensen was breathing and seeing and learning every day the sun came up, he had seen wonders and met people who were kind and lived in eternal hope that one day his life would change for the better because that was what life was all about as far as he was concerned.
Jensen was sheltered from the rain, he had food, water, things to call his own and while he might not have been as clean or as comfortable or as warm as normal people, he was happy because he was alive and had the world to explore. It was only love that had evaded him, but even then he still knew how to give it and how it felt when it was reciprocated. And it wasn’t his mothers fault that she was taken away so suddenly all those years ago and nor was it his fathers fault for reacting so badly when she had died. He had loved her too. From the scant details Jensen remembered about his mother, he knew he couldn’t lay the blame at his fathers feet for losing his mind when she had passed on. Jensen didn’t blame anyone for anything because he truly believed that despite ten long years alone and only really flitting in and out of other peoples lives that love would find him again and that was something worth holding onto.