Newly homeless part 2
It’s been two weeks now, and I’ve developed a routine. Get up early in the morning, get dressed, wash my face and hands, brush my teeth, gather up my things in my backpack (I finally got one), and meander out into the light of day.
The library staff knows me by name, and we talk a little. I think they eye me with contempt because of my situation,, but they don’t show it. At least I’m polite and don’t cause problems which is the story of my life. Keep quiet and don’t make waves, that’s me. Or as I often say, “Just because you’re poor don’t mean you gotta be common.” If you treat people with respect, you get it back.
Today I check my email, read some news, write something for a website, get paid (hopefully). I now have a box at the post office, which gives me an excuse to take a 2-mile walk over there every couple of days to check my mail. I get out there today after a quick bagel sandwich and orange juice at the local café.
I open the box up and there’s bills, bills, and more bills that I can’t pay. And a check! Whoo-hoo! It’s for $34 from a website I write for. That means I can afford lunch out rather than the usual soup kitchen fare. Good thing, too. My insides are talking back to me. Of course, that could be from the cup of coffee that I got this morning and will nurse all day.
As I walk around, I reminisce about Thanksgiving, which was nice. A bunch of us lowlifes crowded the church that provided a nice supper for us. Everybody ate their fill, and we all got a bag of leftovers to take with us. Speaking for myself, I was very thankful that someone took the time and effort to help us out. It remind me that there are some good people in the world. God bless ‘em.
But that was then, this is now. The weather has warmed up considerably. People are walking around in shorts and flip flops, which I think is pushing it, but what do I know? I’m just a bum on the street.
At least I won’t freeze tonight. I may just skip the shelter and hang out all night. Christmas decorations are up. And people are getting into the holiday spirit. Even me. The whole thing reminds me of better times when I had a family. Puts a warm glow in my heart. Then I’m brought back down to earth by some teenager telling me to get the f*** out of the way and then laughing with his friends. I heard them call me a bum and a faggot, which makes me mad, but what am I gonna do?
So that brings me down. Don’t feel like going back to the library. I’ll hang out in the park for awhile. Nice place to sit and reflect, and cry. It’s hard for me to cry. I feel like when I do, the whole world can hear me. It’s embarrassing. I cried so much as a kid for no reason, just because the other kids picked on me. I was nice to everyone because I was taught to be that way, and when people were mean to me, I couldn’t understand why. I get it now, but it doesn’t make the pain go away.
I see a flock of birds flying overhead, heading South for the winter. Wish I could. Just hitchhike and go. But I don’t want to get murdered ‘cause I picked the wrong car to get into. Who’d pick me up anyway, but a psycho murderer? Guess I watched one too many horror movies.
The evening turns cool, but not unpleasant. I guess I should just hop on over to the shelter to see if I can get in there. Don’t really feel like it. I’d rather be alone, but a safe haven is always worth the distractions.
I get there, and a bed is open. A lot of folks are enjoying the weather, so it’s not full like it usually is. A bunch of assorted crazies are heree along with the usual toothless crowd whom you associate with a shelter. One guy rocks back and forth and talks to himself. Harmless stuff.
It’s still early, so I decamp and find two others who are coherent, so we make small talk. A woman in her late 40’s named Bertha talks about what she did today, window shopping, and helping out at the soup kitchen. I recognize her now. She said she’s originally from Tennessee, hooked with a fella and moved here about 20 years ago. He hit here one too many times, and basically skipped town, leaving her with no support. She held it together for awhile, but started drinking and lost everything. Bertha’s been homeless for about 2 ½ years. She hasn’t given up the drinking, as I can smell the remnants of something on her, but she isn’t visibly impaired.
I asked her how she started working at the soup kitchen, and she said, “I just asked. They needed help one day, and I said I’d do it, and turns out I like it. Gives me something to do besides walkin’ around and feedin’ birds.” They arrange for her to get a few dollars and extra food to take with her, so that’s nice.
The man’s name is Donald. He’s been on the streets for about six months, he says. His story is he worked at a good job for about 15 years when the company went bankrupt. He stayed with friends for awhile, but after one argument too many, he left. Nowadays, he goes to the local junkyard three days a week and helps sort the recyclables.
I ask him if he’s looking for a place to stay. He shrugs, and lights up a Salem. (This place is supposed to be a non-smoking building, but the people running it don’t really enforce it.) Donald says he doesn’t like being homeless but he doesn’t want to be somewhere where there are too many rules. So he looks. Said he’s saving up for a room at the flop house in town, but he ain’t there yet.
Bertha asks him for a smoke, and he obliges. She takes a drag, them says, “Aw, man, Haven’t had one in three days. Thank you.”
After awhile the place fills up. The lights go down, and Bertha kneels beside her bed to pray. She prays for a good day tomorrow and for God to help her cope as best she can. Maybe I should do that. Before I commit to sleep, I shut my eyes and ask for help and guidance, and sanity. Best I can hope for around here. Time to zonk out.