|Posted by [email protected] on June 26, 2013 at 5:30 PM|
It is early morning. I wake to a soft sound that I at first, do not recognize. Then I realize it is the sound of my girlfriend crying. This is usually how my day begins. If I'm lucky, I won't have to explain to the concerned citizen standing outside the truck, whose neighborhood we've parked in just what we are doing there. I try to reassure my girlfriend that today will be better, that good things will happen, but somehow the words ring false and any semblance of self- esteem that I may have had, evaporates instantly as the thought of what a lousy provider I am, come rushing to my mind, condemning me and telling me that I must be a bad person and that I must deserve this torture that I face as best I can each and every day. But then the rational part of my mind kicks in telling me that, no, I am not a bad person, just a victim of a government that no longer serves it's citizens, and citizens who judge a person's worth by how much money they have, what kind of car they drive, and all the other equally ridiculous yardsticks that they use in their list of programmed tools and efforts to measure and “pidgeon-hole” a person.
Next, I go through my list of acquaintances in the hopes that I can find someone gracious enough to allow my girlfriend the chance to shower at their place. I forgo this luxury, so that she will feel better at least for a moment, and in doing so I sometimes do not shower for a few weeks or more, because more than anything else I want her to be comfortable and to feel good about herself. She deserves that and so much more. Sometimes, if I'm lucky, I can find a public bathroom that is rarely used, and can take a quick “bird bath: in the sink, the minimum I require so as not to stink. These moments are rare and further serve to shove the fact in my face that I have nothing, therefore I must be nothing.
Next, it's off to the store, where I can buy the food to feed us, just as long as nothing is “hot”, since the rules governing how my 200 dollars a month allowance of food stamps is spent, do not allow for that. With that amount and the constraints that come with it, the powers that be can rest assured that both my lady and myself will, if nothing else, be malnourished, and ironically, overweight – the ideal citizen, since being both of those things means we cannot pose a threat to them and their lifestyle. Being homeless also means that we have no place to store any leftovers, or bargains we might run across, so the food stamps are gone in no time. I wonder if those who made these rules would exist with more peace in their lives if they and their children had to live like this. Nonetheless, I am grateful for what crumbs we do get.
Now, since chances are that we both slept fitfully the night before, we try to find a place to park and take a nap. It is likely that our nap will also be intermittent, as all sorts of interruptions can occur. Police rousts, hoodlums, thieves, and other homeless folk can all serve to put a person in “defense mode”, a state of being where you expect the worse from anyone you encounter, and are pleasantly surprised if it doesn't happen. The question keeps entering my mind, “ how did we arrive here?” The only possible answer for me lies in an observation made about this culture, namely the way we view wealth and status.
Update: May 17th 2013. My girlfriend (Shawn) had found what she thought was a safe place to park for the night. We woke up this morning in this place, which is an alley behind a relatives' house. Shawn was up, we were rearranging the truck, (our house) and she wanted to go online since she is doing research to see what any of the few valuables she has left, might bring her if she sold them. Her niece was outside doing something and Shawn was walking over to ask if she could plug in her computer to charge. Now these relatives have a fairly large dog, a pit bull mixed with something else, and there are signs posted to beware of dog, etc. I imagine that Shawn thought that the dog was tethered far enough away that it couldn't reach her, but she was wrong. The dog was supposed to be on the clothesline so it had a makeshift “run”, but it was not. As soon as Shawn got within sight, the dog attacked. At first all I heard was the dog growling, but then it sounded almost like a dogfight and I heard Shawn yelling,” oh god!”. When it dawned on me what was happening I began to run towards the sounds. I had to run down the alley a bit, then around the corner and make my way through some cars parked there. I had my hunting knife out because I knew from the sounds it wasn't going to be pretty – and it wasn't. I love animals but I have never tolerated a viscous dog, and was prepared to do whatever it took to see that Shawn was protected. The niece had somehow managed to get the dog off of Shawn, but there was the love of my life, on the ground with blood pouring from wounds on her face and arm. I grabbed her and began to yell for someone to “call 911, get an ambulance!” By now some neighbors who had heard the commotion, had come to see what was happening and one of them was a retired nurse practitioner and both she and a friend sprang into action. They kept their cool as they told us what to do, put pressure on Shawn's wounds, got her off the ground and into a chair, and reassured her that everything would be fine. Now, one would think that this one little episode would be the end of that story, but no. Any sane, normal person would want to be with their loved one through their ordeal, and though I do not profess to be neither, my only thought was to be with her. She was pretty chewed up, and I was deeply concerned, and afraid, as most people when confronted with serious injury to a loved one would be. Our truck had been experiencing problems with the battery holding a charge, but fortunately one of the neighbors was right there with a jump, and I had the truck running and was already heading toward the hospital by the time the ambulance left. I stopped a few places along the way to ask for gas money, but no one had any so I took off. I was now behind the ambulance and they were traveling at a fairly good speed. Now, I am by no means a criminal, but since I don't have a driver's license, and was driving her truck, I was breaking the law. Again, all I could think about was how horrible the sight of her on the ground bleeding was, and the sounds, the whole experience. I was filled with a mixture of shame and rage, for not being there to protect this little 5 foot, 130 pound ,64 year old lady that I love more than my own life, anger at anyone who owns a vicious dog, but most of all helplessness. The feeling that no matter how hard we try, it seems like life is just kicking us down deeper and deeper, and that there is no hope. But those were my thoughts and feelings as I followed the ambulance to the hospital, where they could hopefully fix my sweetheart. All of a sudden, the front end of the truck began to make what could best be described as a beating sound. It took a few minutes for me to realize that the night before, when we were putting our possessions from the back of the truck into the front, something must have somehow managed to hit either the 4 low, or 4 high button, and I had been driving with the vehicle in 4 wheel drive. I pulled over, hit the 2 wheel drive button, backed up so as to hopefully disengage the 4 wheel drive and continued on. Unfortunately the damage was done and I had to “nurse” the truck along, never going over 40 m.p.h.
I made it to the hospital, parked the truck and rushed in. I found Shawn on a guerney in the hallway of the emergency room which was to become our shelter for the next 9 hours. An animal control officer showed up, asked a few questions, told us the dog would “probably be put down” since it was on record as having attacked innocent people before.
The hospital staff sewed and glued Shawn's wounds, and since she is homeless, they found a place for her to recuperate for a few days, without the worry of having to find shelter each night. Before she left though, she asked about the truck being there overnight, and was told that it “shouldn't be a problem.” Off she went, and I was left to figure out what to do with the truck. Since the day was almost over, I crawled in the back, exhausted by the days events, and still a little traumatized myself. I must have dozed off because the next thing I knew, there was a loud knocking on the window next to me. I woke to find it was dark and the hospital security was wanting to talk to me. I opened the door to find 6 rent a cops surrounding the truck. They began to question me about why I was there, how long had I been there, did I think this was a camp sight, or what, etc. etc. After about 10 minutes of me explaining in minute detail what had happened, they left. I dozed off again, and again was wakened by the loud knocking. They had left to discuss the situation and had apparently come to the decision that I had lied to them about something, so they were back to get to the bottom of this great mystery. I explained to them again, but this time I was not so patient. I was getting tired of what I called harassment, but they saw as doing their job. One young wanna-be cop even went so far as to compare the lifestyle I am living, to his preconceived notion of what a guy my age should be doing. It was at that point that I blew up for a minute. I told him I was a minimum of twice his age and had forgot more about so called right living than he would ever learn, and shame on him for disrespecting me and talking down to me. This must have took them by surprise, because they stood there speechless for a minute. But that minute was short lived and they started in on me again. Finally I had to let them know that if they thought that rushing to the hospital in a vehicle that would die there, just so I could spend the night there, was my idea of the perfect homeless evening, and that I had orchestrated the whole thing, including my girl's injuries, just so I could have a parking space for the night, then they were crazy as hell and should maybe seek help themselves. They finally decided that since it was painfully obvious I was going nowhere that night, they would allow me to stay there, but that I had to be off hospital grounds by 9 a.m. the following morning. They left again, but sometime thereafter, there was another knock, this time by the youngster who had talked down to me. He told me that if I were there when he got to work the following day, he would personally put the handcuffs on me and have me arrested. It was a parting threat that he just couldn't help but give me, obviously to make himself feel like more of a man. I hope it did the trick, because in my opinion a truly complete man possesses traits such as understanding and empathy, and not one of these “men” showed me that they possessed any of either. They harassed me, belittled me and acted as if I were a criminal – all because my vehicle broke down.