18 August 2012

No home to go back to, have to go forward

I'm new at this not having a place to live experience. There have been many times in my life where home was a roof over my head, but sleeping in a grocery store parking lot in a blizzard was a better option. I have heard people say that some shelter is better than none. I disagree. If being sheltered puts you in a place where you are a victim or a danger to yourself, then finding somewhere else to sleep is a pretty good option.

I could still be in my last apartment. Legally, I can't be evicted until I've had my day in court even though the lease has expired. (I'm not a lawyer, please don't consider this legal advice!) I moved out the stuff I wanted to keep, the stuff that fit in my buddy's van, and left the rest because there was nothing good in my memories of that place.

Now, I'm going to play story teller for a bit.

The sound of the alarm on your phone wakes you up, and you fumble around trying to find your phone to hit the mute button. It takes longer than normal until you figure out that you are in your car, and the phone is in the space in the dashboard between the radio and the heat/AC controls. You slowly realize that the sun is up, and the alarm has gone off because you set it for 1030.

When you went to sleep, there were no other cars in the ramp, at least not on the third level. Now your car is surrounded by cars on both sides. A slow realization materializes in the form of a question-- how many people saw me sleeping here, and just kept going on past? No one who cared. That gnaws at you, that here you are sleeping in a parking ramp and no one even checked to see if you had a pulse. It wasn't like that when you wore BDU's to work. Then, if you hadn't got a proper haircut or hadn't washed your uniform, or a million other hadn't dones, someone noticed and wondered why.

There is a pizza box near your head that contains half of the pizza you ordered when you were in the motel night before last. When you reach for it, a plastic drawer full of kitchen stuff tries to roll down on your head. After fighting them both for a few seconds, you secure the drawer with one hand and two slices of cold pizza with the other. The pizza isn't quite crunchy, but it's getting close. There is a travel mug of coffee in the cup holder, there since yesterday morning. The coffee is from the motel, poured as you left the lobby after checking out. It helps to wash down the chewy pizza, and wakes you up-- a little.

The car isn't a Winnebago, so you open the door and stand up. Your psych medications are in the trunk, so you head that way. If someone walked by, they'd see you reaching into the trunk of your car and popping pills. Maybe that would get someone's attention. Probably not. Several academic buildings are near the ramp, so you head to the closest one. Three semesters ago you had a class in that building, so you know where the men's room is on the first floor.

There is free wireless internet, and chairs and tables, so you pick one where your back is to the wall and you can see anyone who approaches you. Minutes of aimless internet become a couple of hours. Eventually your phone dies, and your butt goes numb from sitting on a wooden chair too long, so you decide it's time to do something.

Something turns out to be a trip to Mickey D's, but not the one you usually go to; this one is a little ways from campus. Getting your car out of the ramp means you have to pay, but whatever. Makes up for the two weeks you had the car parked here when you drove out at 0300 when the gates were up, ticket still in hand. Mickey D's has free internet too, so you do more shit on the internet while you drink free Dr. Pepper refills for several hours. Every once in a while someone comes around to do cleaning rounds, and the glare you give them keeps them from even thinking about running a broom under your table.

This too gets boring, after a while, and the Dr. Pepper stops tasting good, so you head back to campus. Back to the parking ramp, although this time you drive to the top, the fifth level where no one is parked because campus quitting time has arrived. The space you pick has a four foot concrete wall on the drivers side, and since your passenger side and back seat are packed to the gills, this will make it harder for anyone to see you sleeping tonight. Like it matters, but it's Friday night so you never know.

Then it's time to go to work, almost, so you walk to your normal Mickey D's for something more to eat. It's not because you're hungry as much as you're bored, and eating will give you something to do for a little while. After you've eaten and you're getting up to leave you look at the person sitting in the mini booth across the aisle. This guy has been here before doing the same thing you are, killing time. He's making random marks on a napkin with a ball point pen. Not even scribbles, just random lines back and forth. You realize that's probably the way you look, except you're doing random things on an iPhone.

From there you walk to work, but not before a moment of panic wondering where you car is. Once you realize that you've already parked it in the ramp, getting to work is easier.

You've ignored calls from your buddy with the van that holds most of what you own, and your Mom calling to see if you're ok. Maybe you'll call them tomorrow.

Work happens, and now it's almost over. Writing helps take your mind off of reality, lets you try to arrange the day in a way that makes sense. Looking for apartments online seems dangerous, frightening, terrifying. Maybe you'll do that tomorrow too. Maybe.

People wonder, when they're not ignoring the problem, why some people become homeless. What can be done to eliminate the problem. The idea of becoming homeless, even if it is only for a short time, becomes easier when you're alone. Having no one to measure up for, and having no one to notice that you're sliding down the slope and gaining speed, not having a cozy place to live isn't much farther down the slide.

For me, I've been triggered every day for almost three months by my already existing issues and the noise and dust and chaos of living in a construction zone-- not to mention my landlord being on my ass, and things becoming worse when I wasn't getting paid and avoided worrying about it. I've been in crisis for so long that it's starting to feel normal again.

I could just get in my car tonight and drive away with whatever is packed in my car. Drive until I run out of gas and money, or until the brakes give out or the clutch gives out. So far, I've been able to convince myself that if I just stay and stick it out, little by little I'll make things better where I am.

Maybe someday I'll use these past few days as an anecdote to start a speech, you know, when I'm successful and people want to hear my advice.

yeah, maybe.

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