Heading out this morning, into the wake of the early morning’s storms, I find the sky mindful of unsheltered travelers. She’s rained on my bicycle, which I abhor, yet it was necessary. Spending the night at The Mission, I sacrificed my bicycle’s health for my own in buying a $6 bed to the night. Having stripped her of every possible item that could possibly be stolen, I left only it’s frame and wheels chained to a bike rack yards away from any window or door. I did not feel safe.
Living on the street, this time, with my yellow bicycle as a supplemental form of transportation, has proven both a asset and a burden. I can carry so much more, but I must worry more about her. As I said to Robert R., “Possessions possess you.”
He responded, “Yah, well, I’d never thought of it that way. Yes, they really do.”
Seated across from me at The Café is a lady in pleated wool skirt, tight white blouse, long legs, pale skin, pert lips, brunette hair, dark eyebrows, reading the Star Tribune so elegantly. It’s picture I just want to snap against pale yellow wall. I think my mind is setup to work in still photography. Ever since I lost my digital camera, life has lost it’s meaning. I want to capture life in images, then document them.
It’s not like she’s striking. But she has a tranquil peace about her. It’s a Sunday morning, and she’s just relaxing at her favorite little café reading a paper. It’s a perfect image, with no depth, a flat wall. From a distance, she could be years younger, but in abstract, she’s simply a beautiful relaxed woman. It’s a shame to have to capture it in words instead of images. I really miss my digital camera.
I will buy one soon if it means not eating.
When I came to wake at The Mission this morning, I found my old friend Robert R., on all things, on the thrown. My dorm was out of toilet paper, so the man told me to visit the next dorm and borrow some, “from Peter to pay for Paul.” Well, Peter was out, and I found Robert with a handful of napkins. Evidently, he’d thought ahead. Nearly all the toilets were depleted.
Robert R. is a gentleman who reads a lot of detective novels and speaks easy of others. A tall slim man, with silver hair, a gentle demeanor, he’s respected by all he encounters. When he swears, which is rare, he always catches himself and apologizes. I don’t know who he’s apologizing to, but God.
I told him of my homeless plight, and he filled me in on the ways and means of living an extended life without a home. We originally met just before starting this blog, before I ever had the idea of journaling my experience online. It was the first time I’d connected with an individual while on the streets.
Dark crime novels were my only escape at that time, eclipsing movies, music, and television. They encompassed both the darker side of my anger, and the vigilante urges that motivated me to stay alive. I saw so many moral crimes that I knew would escalate into violence that I felt, at that time, I could prevent them, given the right moral pressure at the right time. Everyone, except the totally immoral sociopath, will succumb to reason. I felt, that being of sober mind and body, I could change the path of some of our darkest neighbors.
There are lines that are drawn in crime. Lines of stealing, burglary, assault, rape, murder. As these crime escalate in the mind of the criminal, the moral value of man’s mind changes. The line in the sand that’s drawn changes. What’s he’s ready to do next is shifting. If he’s ready to go to the next step, it’s easy for him, but terrifying on the community.
All these things enter your mind when you live on the street. You want to know who you’re sleeping next to in a dorm full of 38 men who happened in that evening. Even then, I opened myself to a few men with property such as mine, (a cycle, bags, etc.) and they told me, “Don’t trust anyone here. They’ll earn your trust, then steal you blind.”
I don’t believe that. I cannot believe that. I will not believe that. I know I’m not protected by God, but I’m not ignorant of the fact that so many things in my life will be pulled out from under me. I cannot live that way.
I also don’t believe that God has a master plan for us all. No! People that believe that are numb to this world.
This is what I believe: God is all around us, and binds us; it shows us everyday what we are made of, the four elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water. All of these elements are still not within man’s control. Instead, we are meant to understand how these elements co-exist with us. When something unexpected happens, just try to understand how this could possibly be in tune with God’s idea of his learning experience for you.
But, just never, ever think you’ve got his plan down pat. Just continue on. Remember, if you’re not dead, there’s still a plan for you. Thy will be done, not yours.
Okay, enough of the finer things.
I slept Friday night at the apartment, against landlord Bertha W.’s will. She said, “I’ve alerted the police.” Yah, right, I thought. It worried me enough to sleep at a local church for ten minutes until I had the wicked urge for vengeance. Knowing that the police are not going to be staking out an empty apartment for a dead-beat tenet, I took it on myself to exact my revenge for her insinuate behavior.
Just before leaving that evening, she’d taken a plaque off the wall of the Serenity Prayer. Handing it to me, she said, “God is a crutch.” My jaw tightened! June W. gave this to me years ago when I was going through my battle with alcohol way before moving to live with her. It meant to much to me then. Years later, when I’d moved to be with her, I’d hung it in the guest bedroom. One weekend, when her brother Mark U. came to stay with us, he’d taken such a liking to this inspiring plaque that he’d asked if he could take it home with him. He asked us both at the same time. Mark is a very imposing man, I would normally say yes to him, but I just looked at Lori, and knowing what it meant to me back in Los Angeles, she answered for me, “We just can’t. It really means so much to us. You understand.” Shocked, he answered slowly, “Um, yes, I do.”
When Bertha held it in her hands and declared it’s weakness, I knew it was time for revenge. I took it from her, packed in a bag I knew would eventually end up in June’s hands, I plotted my revenge. Nothing too evil, but vengeful, just the same.
So, being pissed that Bertha wouldn’t allow me to sleep in a vacant apartment, resting at a church instead, not being able to sleep, I did it. I planned my evening.
Using reverse telephone lookup from the Internet, I’d determined that Bertha’s home address was just a few miles from my apartment. Knowing that I had the right tools at hand, I headed towards her piloted address. Already knowing the cheap nature of the woman, I’d expected her to keep her vehicle on the street or driveway; anything but garaged. I wasn’t disappointed.
When exacting revenge, one must always account for payback. If you allow for the variance of chance, one can always disable a victim without them even being aware. Valve stems are one of these attacks. My bicycle has inner tube caps with value stem removers. By removing or loosening a valve stem, you make a completely functional tire appear flat. All it takes to repair it is a pump. But, to the untrained eye, you have a punctured tire. One flat tire means you have to install your spare. Two means you need a tow truck. Unless, of course, you realize, that all you need is air. If you don’t have a pump handy, you’re screwed. Hence, you need to call a tow truck.
It’s the simplest way of saying, “Possessions posses you.” I slightly released one valve stem, the let out a little air out of another tire. When she arrived, she had no clue what had happened. She’d installed the spare, instead of inflating the perfectly fine tire, and drove on the low tire. She never suspected that I’d been the culprit. I felt better. I don’t want to say the God works in mysterious ways, but sometimes Karma needs some help.
To this day, I don’t believe she’s spent the $250.00 to file for eviction. I’d asked her, but she said, “I’m not telling you.” If she hasn’t, all I have to do is pay off the utility bills and I might be able to rent again soon, once I get back on my feet.
Back at The Mission, I ran into so many old faces, from before I’d started blogging. It was difficult to remember their names, but was said a lot that there are so many people who choose to live this life. I was just happy having a place I could call my own, one where I could make a healthy BLT! It was fine by me. I just dropped the ball as far as keeping a job to support rent.
Again, many of the same old faces. It’s hard to believe that after almost a year, these people choose to live this life. Not having a place to call home is taxing on a man. I don’t know how I can live like this for long.
Faced with a 50-something old man wearing an Eddie Bauer T-shirt, I’m struck with the culture clash. My mind works it out: It’s funny, but sad. Young people, who can’t make it, exchange their cloths at The Mission for other clean cloths, and so do everyone else. So, older men, which mostly populates The Mission, end up with trendy T-shirts.
I see all these old faces from just nine months ago, and I wonder how they continue. I’m depressed from not moving forward, and now actually moving backwards. They all seem happy by simply skimming the surface.
All I want to do is catch up. I want to find a way to live a life where I can choose where to go next. I want to stand on my own two feet. I fell this time. I wish I could say I know how to avoid it, but I don’t.
I know this: It’s not that I don’t have a sponsor. It’s not that I stopped going to meetings. It’s not that I stopped reading the Big Book. It’s not that praying morning and night. It’s something deeper, and more in tune with my nature.
A.A. meetings teach you that anyone that’s against recovery is wrong. It’s not as simple as that. I wish it was, but it’s not.
It was simple, when all I knew what that as long as I stayed sober, everything else would somehow fall into place. That blindsided me from the truth.
The truth is this: In some communities, you will find groups of people that will help you stay sober, if you follow their rules explicitly. Then, when you do, if you don’t follow their way of life, you’re out. Then you’re either a drone, or you’re not supported my the group.
If, however, you find in your own friends, a way to communicate that you have a problem with alcohol, and you’re willing to be honest with them, they will help you. They won’t trust you, as far as they can throw you, but that is best. They’ll at least know you. They’ll know you’re spirit and willingness to contribute to the whole. And at another time, they may come to ask for your help in the same embarrassing manner.
I’ve trusted gung-ho A.A. enthusiasts, only to find their exotic remedies too extreme. Sobriety is simply a choice. Your friends, true friends, will always be there to tell you when you’ve had enough. And, if you’re a true friend to them, you’ll muster up enough courage to say, “You know, I believe you’re right. Here’s my keys.”
I remember. I remember a small period of time when June W. and I, and our friends, had that relationship.