March, 2019: The Breakup: I don’t know how I got here. I used to live a normal life, whatever that means. I had a job, a car, an apartment, a wife. I paid bills. I mean, I wasn’t royalty, but I had a place.
Then, I lost my job. They were downsizing, they said. I looked for another job, but I hadn’t found one yet. Nancy was getting kinda annoyed with me, I’ll admit. She said I wasn’t trying hard enough. She nagged me alot, but sometimes I just couldn’t force myself to go into one more place and get rejected again. That’s when I slept a lot, or watched a lot of TV. I also lied to Nancy when she got home, telling her that I was out on the job hunt half the day.
I guess Nancy got scared when they said I was bipolar, or maybe she got fed up, or something. She just … left me. I came home one day and noticed that some of the furniture was either missing, or had been moved around. Then, I went into the bedroom and noticed the empty space where Nancy’s clothes used to be. That was a big hint that she was gone. I looked through her drawers and her stuff was gone. I kinda went a bit crazy, combing through the cabinets like a madman, throwing things around the way a thief would. I kept thinking that someone had come in and stolen her stuff.
I know that’s crazy thinking, but sometimes, I’m crazy. So, there it is. I was sad and mad and didn’t know what to feel. I couldn’t really blame her. I didn’t think I would miss her that much, but y’know, she was a pretty good companion. And she paid the rent. Plus also, I loved her.
Thing is, when she left, I couldn’t really afford to keep up the apartment. I applied for disability, but somehow I couldn’t keep track of the paperwork. I couldn’t keep track of anything. I couldn’t really function very well. I have family that lives across the country, but we really didn’t talk much, except on holidays, and I didn’t think they would really want to take a crazy, out of work, old fool like me into their houses. I suppose I could have asked, but it didn’t feel right. I barely remembered these people. Truth is, I could barely remember what day it was, so I just … didn’t.
I was on meds, but I would get the idea that I didn’t need them, and that’s when all hell would break loose. I thought about killing myself so as to not put a burden on anyone, including myself, but I guess I have a pretty strong survival instinct.
After I ripped up the apartment, I think I sat on the floor just staring, which is something I do when I’m in my super manic state. I can’t put thoughts together coherently, or even speak. I have no idea how long I sat there. I think I fell asleep.
Eventually, I just wandered around my apartment collecting things that I thought I might need, put them in a big backpack, and wandered out onto the street. I took some clothes, a few books, a cell phone, a pad and pen, my wallet, a toothbrush and some paste, some aspirin because I get headaches sometimes, a few granola bars, a bottle of water and a little stuffed animal that Nancy gave me when we first met. She gave me a frog because she said I reminded her of one, always jumping around. Oh, and my glasses, cuz I can’t see without them. And then, I just left.
July 2019: On the Streets It’s really hot out here. I’m kinda used to it, but sometimes I hang out in the library, or wander around the mall because they have really good air conditioning. Living on the streets isn’t so bad, actually. I’ve made quite a few friends. Believe it or not, some of them are way crazier than me. The first few days I just sort of wandered aimlessly, huddling in doorways or on benches to catch a few winks. I barely ate, mostly because I had no food, but also because I really wasn’t hungry. I was kinda in a daze so it’s hard to remember the details.
I’m really lucky because I met a buncha other people living on the streets. They’re like my family now. I don’t think I woulda gotten through this if it weren’t for them.
There’s Charlie, who has his own grocery cart, and a really long beard. He stinks real bad, but you get used to it after a while. I don’t know what his story is and he talks alot about nothing much, but he helped me find the area where all the homeless people live. Besides, he’s a nice guy, totally harmless.
Then, there’s Angela. She wears most of her clothes all at the same time; I think she’s afraid that someone is gonna take them. I don’t know how she can handle that in this heat. She tells the greatest stories, except I don’t know if any of them are real, but who cares. Also, she helps us find food. Sometimes we get food at the food bank, where they give you a bunch of food every other week, but you have to have someplace to keep it, so we share that with each other when we get it. Other times, we go to the soup kitchen, and the food is pretty good there. The beef stew is my favorite, but I also really like the macaroni and cheese. The coffee is good and if they have sandwiches left over, they wrap them up so we can take them with us. And the people are nice.
The truth is, sometimes, we do scrounge in the garbage. When I first did it, I thought wow, I really have hit rock bottom, but really, it’s some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. One of my friends is Gloria, this young gal who I think is homeless because she comes from a crappy family, but she’s really smart. She’s not a drug addict, like some of the homeless. We tend to stay away from them because they’re bad news and the cops are always looking for them. Anyway, Gloria took me to the back alleys where they have really nice restaurants and we wait until they throw away the food for the night. We get to the food before the dogs or the rats, or some of the other scavengers, like the homeless from the other neighborhoods. Some of it is in containers, like leftovers that people forgot to take home or something, and that’s the best stuff. I’ve eaten prime rib and all sorts of really yummy things.
Some people probably think the homeless people are so sad. I guess that’s true for some of them, but it’s not a bad life, really. Luckily, I’m in a place where there’s no snow or really cold weather, so we set up tents or giant cardboard boxes to sleep in. I was able to get a bedroll, which is pretty comfy. Out here, I have friends and nobody judges me. Or nags me. I don’t mind it. We play chess and checkers, we talk, and I have a library card because I had an address once, so I get books to read also.
I admit, sometimes I crave a comfortable bed, and a real shower, so then I go to the shelter. It’s not far from our settlement. The only thing is, if I leave my stuff, or leave my place too long, someone always moves in on my territory, so I only go to the shelter for a night or two at a time. Or when it’s so flippin’ hot like it is now.
March 2020: the Shut Down begins: The scuttlebutt around town is that there’s some kind of virus that is super contagious and there might be a quarantine that the government is gonna impose on people everywhere. I have no idea what that means for us, since we don’t really live anywhere permanent. I really hope they don’t close down the soup kitchen. I’m not so worried about this virus because, well, living on the streets, we’re exposed to all sorts of things. The virus would just be one more thing. I’m more concerned about finding food.
A few days later: The craziest thing is happening. My friend Charlie told me that the government is imposing a shelter-in-place lock-down for the town. I can never really figure out if anything Charlie says is true because as I might have mentioned, he’s bat-sh-t crazy, but a great guy. So, I asked Gloria because at least I can trust her to know what is really going on. Gloria said that Charlie was right. I don’t really know what this all means, but there doesn’t seem to be many people on the streets lately, and all the restaurants and stores are closed. I don’t know what we are supposed to do or if this has anything to do with us.
Several days later: This is really weird. Several cops have stopped me on the street and told me to get to shelter. I asked them if they meant the shelter on 4th Street or the one on Hardwick place. They thought I was being sassy. I told them that I really didn’t know what they meant. Finally, one cop that I talk to all the time, Jimmy, told me that we, and by that I mean the homeless people, have to find an actual shelter, like a house or apartment or somewhere to go. Otherwise, the authorities are going to start putting us in motels or tents. In my world, that just meant that they were finally going to give us some housing. “About time,” I told Jimmy. I asked him where they were, and can my friends come with me? That’s when Jimmy told me I should try to social distance whenever possible. I really had no idea what he’s talking about.
2 Days Later: I found out what social distance means. That’s a f–kin’ joke. How are we supposed to pull that off? There are hundreds of us just waiting in line at the soup kitchen. Does this mean we’re not going to be able to get something to eat? Seriously. Half the people I know are sick from one thing or the other half the time. How will anyone know the difference?
Today, I told a few of my friends that we were going to have to leave the streets and find one of these places that they wanted to put us in. Everyone grumbled. Gloria said that they just wanted to put us in these homeless camps and get us off the streets so we wouldn’t get the normal people sick. I told her that might be true, but so what? I figured that we would get someplace to sleep and they might feed us without us having to stand in line forever. I would miss the prime rib, though.
3 Days Later: This is so stupid. I thought we wouldn’t have to stand in line, but there’s more people than ever standing in line. Some of my friends got put in a motel. Lucky bastards. I got put in one of these tents and it’s really hot out. All we can do is sit around, waiting for the sun to go down. This sucks. My life is not my own and controlled by these authorities. I might as well live in a police state, which come to think of it, it is. They won’t let us roam the streets like we’re used to doing. They gave us beds, really more like cots, and they said we should social distance, but we’re sleeping several people to a tent, so what is the point?
April, 2020: I’m with a bunch of people I never met before. I had to bunk with a drug addict who is going through withdrawals because he can’t find his dealer. I’d give him the drugs if I could, the guy is in so much pain. He moans alot. I try to stay out of the tent when he’s freaking out. The other guy I’m bunking with snores like a lawn mower. He keeps me awake, and I poke him whenever possible, but sometimes I just wander around among the tents. Then, some cop sees me and makes me go back in. Then, I just sleep during the day when he leaves. I really miss my cardboard box. At least that was all mine.
Sometimes we all go together to the soup kitchen, and sometimes, the soup kitchen sets up right near our camp and hands out sandwiches. They’re not bad.
People have started getting sick. I saw some people flipping out today, whining and crying because they think they have the virus. If they have it, we’re all gettin’ it. To hell with it, we might as well just thin the herd. Let the people who are gonna get it, get it. Every day, the ambulance comes to the camp and takes a bunch of people away. I don’t know if they’ve got the virus or not.
I heard that they were gonna set up a station for testing so we can see who has the virus. Whoever has it, they’re gonna put them in special quarantine tents, or take them to the abandoned motels. I doubt if they’re gonna treat the homeless. Probably just take them there to die. I mean, who is gonna check?
My new friend, Joe, is coming to my tent today with a chess game. I heard he’s really good. Lots of the smarter homeless guys make their money hustling tourists in the park. The tourists always think they’re gonna beat these guys, but they never do. Not a bad way to make some cash. Who woulda thunk these guys would be good at chess? I’m not as smart as them. Usually, I just play checkers.
Well, I guess this is as good a place as any to live. I’ve never seen so many people in one place. Social distancing? Not in this camp. No sir. Not here.