Guest writer was homeless and out and about around the Conejo Valley at the time he wrote this. He has since regained his footing and is doing great.
Today after wrestling with the cold all night inside my van, I woke up tired at the crack of light. I grow more and more impatient with my homelessness. My tears again are a simple reminder that I’m still alive. My schedule will first take me to McDonald’s, where I will enjoy a dollar coffee, free Wi-Fi and where I’ll wait until I have to go to work. I have little money, and less gasoline to keep my 4-wheel home moving. My on-going battle with a head-cold has left me congested, and my energy level has yet to return to normal.
Lately the cold, wet weather has interfered with what work I am blessed with, and as a result at times I sometimes feel miserable. In a number of stories that I’ve written recently, I’ve expressed a increasing level of unhappiness with my life, and my homelessness. I’m reminded of Viggo Mortensen from the movie “The Road”, a post-apocalyptic tale of a man and his son trying to survive by any means possible. Like Viggo, I want a clear course but have no map that will lead me to any island of solace.
An older gentleman sitting a few tables away glances over, and kindly asks me “How are you doing today?” I recognize him from my frequent visits to this McDonald’s. I reply back by presenting my right hand, which shows him my damaged finger nails. Addressing him with my hand as I did was my way to answer his question, and decrease the likelihood that the conversation would continue. I have nothing against the old guy but I’m certainly not making any effort to win any new friends today. My cuticles were torn, bloody and damaged, thus I would normally make a regular effort to hide them from the public; not today. My displeasure with my life grows, while the world around me carries on.
I quickly look at my cell phone laying on the table in front of me, pretending someone has sent me a text, I smile, move to tap a button so the phone lights up and smile again, pretending to read something worthwhile.
I note the time, turn to glance outside through the large window into the bright sunlight beaming down, while holding my cell phone in hand, and then recall better times in my head. My smile relaxes as I release the cell phone back to the table, then peer about the room to see if anyone is looking at me. No one is.
It’s a polished behavior I’ve learned to exercise, when I’m nervous, in an effort to blend in public places. It also makes me feel like I have some sort of life going on outside of my homelessness, laptop, cell phone, and stained clothing. To the world it presents the pretense of being normal, like everyone else, and not being another homeless person; many who frequent this McDonald’s.
My deteriorating perception of myself reminds me that I’m simply existing right now, floating about, not getting anywhere meaningful or improving my living situation. I fear I’m going to end up chronically homeless, sleeping in and out of shelters, watching my health deteriorate while riding a bike around town, until I wither away. God please help me find a road back.
I soon leave McDonald’s for work, escaping the cold with the warm heater in my van, but a cell phone text interrupts me. It’s interesting, when I chat with my wife, who seems worlds away, I always close with the same feeling. I feel like she simply wants me to crash and burn. I guess if that happens, she could better convince everyone that she was right about me all along, and she did all that she could do to save me. I’m reminded every time I communicate with her that she offers no lifeline, not an ounce of compassion, only contempt and bitterness towards me. She won’t agree with my stark conclusion, I don’t expect her too, but that’s my perception of our broken relationship.
It’s interesting, I often explain my existence throughout the day as an exercise in surviving. I don’t expect anyone to understand, and that’s alright. When you’re homeless you must focus on the basics, like staying relatively clean, healthy, fed, warm, and aware of the location of a bathroom. Anything else that reinforces those efforts is a valued and welcome bonus. However unscheduled or unpredicted experiences that obstruct my survival mentality will irritate me, perhaps even cripple me. I feel horrible when I arrive at work, I’m depressed and through a series of text messages I’m again reminded that my former family has discarded me.
Sadly I lack the wherewithal to change my homeless situation right now. Sometimes I want to toss my coffee at the window in McDonald’s, perhaps that outburst will land me a free room and food for the night at the local mental health facility. I then conclude it will open up no new roads and only worsen my situation, which does not benefit me. I often believe my guardian angel is on vacation, or perhaps looking for a more viable partner to watch over.
I was tired and sore when I finished up working today. I pressure washed a large deck and adjacent concrete walkways. I enjoy working outdoors very much, the sun often blesses me with its warmth, and somehow makes me feel better when it shines brightly overhead. The pressure washer, which is electric, lacks the pressure, proper nozzles and tools to do either a fast or truly professional job. Thus based on square footage that needed cleaning, what would normally take 90 minutes took 5 hours. I dream of one day owning a high performance, professional pressure washing rig, but sadly I have more important priorities right now.
That’s right, even with my often silencing depression and homelessness, I still do have dreams.