A world full of homes, yet so many homeless people

They lived.

When the hours of the night were in full blossom and there was no one around to see, they were alive. All of them walking; searching endlessly for something they might not even know was there. Something that maybe didn't even exist. They thrived and they laughed. They continued on, even though there was nothing to continue on for.

Some nights it rained. Most of them were cold.

But they had to keep moving, no matter what.

Jaime had learnt that at a very young age.

Usually, they rooted through the garbage. It wasn't a very efficient way to do things, but Jaime didn't like begging. Not unless it was necessary, anyway. Some of the others sometimes convinced him too. They said that he got more because he was younger and more likely to receive empathy from others. But, Jaime just didn't like that way. It felt wrong.

So, rooting through the garbage it was.

And, it was fine. Usually, he and a couple of others went out to do the search. You found your own stuff, though. Searching a few ways away from some of the other kids was a smart move. Especially away from the bigger kids. People were always trying to steal your stuff. And it sucked. Usually, you went to the bigger and more popular places. There were lots of people around, so you could always make an extra dime here and then from those who felt pity for you.

Jaime was one of the kids who got a lot of pity.

It was because he was younger. Because he still had a round face with chubby cheeks and child-like features. People had more pity for the younger kids. More pity, more money. Jaime was cool with that. Though, he felt slightly bad for the other kids who had gotten older and couldn't work that same "charm" anymore.

He didn't feel bad for the old bums, though. Most of them were drunkards and druggies. Shame on them for not getting better. They were older. They were wiser. They should know better.

Jaime didn't look for food in the garbage. He looked for useful little trinkets and gadgets that he could sell out on the streets or to some of the other kids. Pens, screws and bolts, tools, anything of the like. Usually, the hard, metal stuff sold the best and for the most. Heaters and radiators went for the most to the people that had found permanent homes under bridges or in ransacked structures for the winter. But, Jaime had not been lucky enough to have stumbled across one as of then.

Someday, though.

How long the search took all depended on how much useful stuff could be found. Some days were slower than others. Others, good luck was cast upon you and you could be holding five dollars in only the matter of a couple of hours. Jaime usually was stuck in the middle of "slow" and "good luck", making way with two-three dollars after a solid five hours of searching were put in.

He didn't go to school. He didn't have time. It was stupid, anyways.

With the money, he went to buy things. Useful things, like food and water. Clothes and blankets. In the winter, that last stuff was super important. He was good with his money. He distributed it well.

At least, that was what he told himself.

In reality, when he went out with the little coins that he had, he went to buy glue. Glue, clay, paint. It had all kinds of names. It was like drugs for kids. Most got high on either glue or paint, but usually glue, because it was cheaper than paint. It was because paint was an actual drug. It had a real name, but everyone who was everyone called it paint. And, like most drugs and cigarettes, you got addicted to it.

Jaime had gotten addicted to it.

He didn't use paint, but he did constantly go to the market to buy glue. Sometimes, it was stolen from him by the bigger kids. Other times, he traded it in for food or clothes and toiletries. But mostly, he sniffed it. You inhaled and exhaled through a bag and "sniffed it" as the others called it. Kind of like cocaine, except not. They weren't druggies. Not like the bums. They did get high off it, though.

It took away the hunger pangs. It made everything feel better. Eventually, you came to like it more than food itself. It took over your entire life so that you wasted money on the stupid stuff. Jaime was no stranger to addiction. He was already ten years old and smoking cigarettes and downing vodka in big gulps. Alcohol and butts helped with the hunger as well, but not as much as glue did. Jaime wasn't stupid. He knew the stuff was killing him, but didn't know how to stop. And it was for that reason that he continued on.

And so, Jaime spent his mornings scavenging and searching for things. Sometimes, he'd do odd jobs as well. He worked in the cold wind of the mornings. In the afternoon and evening, he made money. He begged and sold as much as he could. Usually, you begged with an animal, because then people thought that you had to provide for both the animal and yourself. Street dogs and stray cats worked well. If you begged with babies or a young child, you hit the jackpot. Sometimes, Jaime wished he had a younger sibling out there with him. It would be much easier that way.

But then he realised how selfish that sounded, and had to refrain for kicking himself over it.

During the late evening and well into the night, they were animals. Wild and reckless, they cared for nothing and nobody. You'd better hope that you didn't get in their way, because there would be hell to pay if you did. Most of them were high off their minds and would just scream and run and laugh. When you lived like you might die tomorrow, you had no care or thought in the world for anything. Not even yourself. And Jaime, the impressionable child that he was, of course ran along with them. They would beat up and steal from bums, laugh in the faces of the authorities, sing songs and smoke until it felt like there lungs were nothing more than piles of ashes. They laughed until their throats were raw and their laughter turned into raspy coughs that wracked the entirety of their sweaty, skinny little bodies.

And he loved it that way.

Loved this life. Loved being on the streets. Loved living in the train station.

Of course, by the next day, droopy eyelids and red eyes they had get on their feet and keep moving. Crowd onto anyone of the tiny, overcrowded caravans (didn't matter which one, so long as it went somewhere) and get a move on. Because, they had to keep moving. It was their way of life. They didn't stay in the same place, at the same station, for more than a few weeks. Two months at the most. They tended to stick together in the same group, because most kids were on the run and couldn't go home or were too young to take care of themselves properly. Meaning, most of the older kids stepped up and kind of became the leaders, making them essential but dangerous to all those around them. In hindsight, it made more sense for them to travel together rather than alone. They were more useful to each other dead than alive. The train carts were usually stuffy and filled beyond capacity with stowaways. You could be stuck on a train for days on end with sick children and crying babies. It sucked. It really did.

But it was better than sticking around for too long. Overstaying your welcome and stuff. And Jaime knew this. It was what he had grown up by. If boys were meant to stay in one place, they would have roots; not legs. Because they could run and shove each other and breathe in the cold, cool air of an uncaring world and be okay with that. Jaime could stick his head out of a train opening and laugh at those who were stuck on standby, waiting for life to come to them instead of going out to try and find it themselves like he was doing.

Because, yes life sucked; but it was like that for everyone. They weren't poor. Not at all, really. No, they were actually the fortunate ones! Because, no matter what kind of crap happened to them out there, they looked out for each other. No matter what. And, not a lot of people could say that they had that kind of relationship with someone. They were free to do whatever they pleased, and nobody could stop them. Authorities and passer-by could attempt to beat them and people could spit at them when they begged, but they could do nothing to stop the determination and will the street kids all had to survive. To keep going.

To most people, the street was just a means of transportation. A way to get from point A to point B very quickly. A simple means of reaching a destination. But to Jaime, it was home. He lived and breathed the cold, hard ground and the rumbling of the railway tracks. The sensation of sniffing glue and the feeling of smoke filling your lungs and liquor burning your throat were just a normal part of life to him, no matter how much it was frowned upon by others.

And he loved it.

Jaime had been living this way for years, now. He followed the same basis of a routine every day. And it sometimes got tiring and he sometimes felt like giving up, but it was the path that he had chosen to take, so he would walk it with his head held high and his pride intact. He would move from station to station, place to place, street to street, without bothering to remember the names of people or places he visited or got to know because he knew that he wouldn't be sticking around for very long. He was a fraud and a sinner and the dirtiest kind of thief there was, but he didn't really mind. Because, he wasn't the only one. He wasn't alone. There were others just like him out there.

No matter what happened, life continued on. As sad and gloomy as it got, no matter the hardships you had to face. Life was ever moving and changing, like a train. And Jaime had accepted this long ago. This was his life now. He would continue on like this forever. Or, as long as he was a kid. He had to wonder what would happen when he became a bum. You lived at the stations so long as you were a child, because that was how you made a living. But when becoming a bum, when getting older, what would happen? Would he even be on the streets five years from now? Or would he be some drunkard or crackhead living on the side of the street making love to the asphalt?

But, no. This was Jaime's life. He had lived this way for three years now, and he wasn't stopping anytime soon. Nothing could change the situation he was in. He was a street kid after all. Why would he want to be anywhere else or be doing anything more than this? Nothing could change his way of looking at things.

At least, that was what he had thought.

All that changed when he met Bart Allen.