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Continuing My Homeless Journey
I’m laying in the queen-sized bed that I made the frame to. My body is on fire. I scratch and scratch, but I just make it worse. Opening the skin so that I attract more parasites.
I am in agony. Not just because I have bite marks all over my body, in some places multiple bites, but because my emotions are worn. The tears come freely to my face because of the memories of why I lost my last proper apartment. First, roaches had taken over my one bedroom space. Then, the spiders helped remove the roaches but became a problem in themselves. Lastly, bed bugs came in and took over what space that was untouched from the spiders. When living in Madison, WI, not being able to fully pay living expenses every month turned out to be the least of my worries. My stomach feels sick thinking that I may need to make the choice to be homeless again. I’ve never stopped scouting places to sleep in out on the streets.
Sadly, when I first came back to this area I thought at least I was in a place were I would feel more comfortable sleeping outside. Danville, IL is located just thirty miles or so from my hometown of Urbana, IL. The parks, Government buildings, and the University and Parkland College buildings are all familiar to me; at least more familiar than those same kind of buildings in Madison, WI.
Yet whenever I go places, in the van with my mother or on the bus, I swivel my neck to peer into cracks and niches in buildings and empty alleyways. It’s just something that I unconsciously do now.
Knowing that I can pay my living expenses now with a steady income does not dissipate the fear of suddenly becoming homeless again. My strength does not back down from the possibility of one day being in the same predicament I had to endure in 2014. My back has mostly healed, and for those places that do still twinge with pain, I can quiet them with my daily dose of pain medicine. The only thing that keeps me from saying “fuck it” to this efficient space is my mother down the hall, and the repairs that I have made to my familial relationships.
Being homeless is not something that I actually want my son to “see” me do. I hadn’t seen him in ten years and it was bad enough to return to him on a meager fixed income, with a different walk, and constantly wearing a brace. Being eighteen is a very pivotal point for children. If his friends ever saw me walk into a public place with bunches of bags, or saw me enter a bathroom only to exit an hour later, why, he may die of shame (note the sarcasm).
At the moment however that thought does not occur to me and I am languishing in my clean bedsheets and down comforter from all of the bug bites. Leaving my bed for my make shift couch proved futile as well so I sit on the floor staring at the small space that I was so proud of just a week ago. The bed was the first peace of furniture I made so that I could get my mattress of the floor and ease the pressure in my back. Then I made a table and a chair. Then another chair and a writing desk. Then a makeshift ottoman and bookcase. The ottoman and chairs can be pushed together to form a makeshift couch. The materials used were all free pieces of wood from shipping pallets and other wooden crates and boxes found at different businesses in Danville. My mother had purchased a sewing machine so I made all the upholstery for my chairs and ottoman.
At my present sleepy moment, gazing through the darkness as I sat on the imitation hardwood floor, I was ready to throw all this shit out and hedge my bets on being homeless again. I decide to go sleep in the car. Again, nothing new.
The month changes and I am paid my disability stipends. I attack the bed bugs with as much ferocity as my back and right foot will allow. I was so quick to call it quits and become homeless that I had forgotten what it truly entailed. I can’t just quit being homeless on nights when it is bad. The first article I wrote about being homeless proved that. Shortly after I wrote it that article back in 2014, I was assailed by mosquitos and my body felt just as inflamed then as it did from the bed bugs, but I couldn’t just get up and go to someone’s house or move to another room. I stuck it out and I made it work.
So that’s what I am doing. A week after the cleaning brigade and my apartment almost feels normal. The building manager is certain that they have gotten rid of the culprit behind the infestation. When I calmed my emotions about the situation and realized just how hard I worked to have a place to live, it became clear that leaving this place without a proper fight against the parasites would be too cowardly for my new courageous tastes. So for now I live to fight to sleep in my own apartment another day.