Life on the streets has never been easy. But it’s the only place I’ve ever felt comfortable.
I was found outside of a convenience store. So many people in and out of that place in a day that no one could tell who had left me. Just me wrapped in a blanket, lying next to the cold brick wall on the sidewalk. One month old. I was lucky that a woman found me before the store closed. So many had just passed me by as they ran their errands. It’s amazing how oblivious people are to things right in front of them. My first foster family was told that I had been lying there for hours not making a sound. They said that people must have thought I was a lost piece of clothing and just kept on walking.
I’m no longer surprised by the tunnel vision of most people. I watch them closely every day, even when they think I can’t see them. Those who do acknowledge that I exist are the most fascinating to me. Reactions are anything from sadness and offers of help to horror at the scars on my face to disgust that they are anywhere near someone like me. I’ve been kicked around, from family to family, school to school not unlike a lost piece of clothing or something unwanted. I’m used to the looks.
But it’s alright, I’m okay. They can look the other way. They’ll never understand the city’s effect on me and the thousands of others just like me. We are the ignored; the avoided; the pitied; the feared; the forgotten. Yet, if anyone ever stopped to hear our stories, they’d be more intrigued than by reading any book on the Best Sellers List. We aren’t deadbeats trying to live for free. Not all of us are mentally ill. Not all of us are drug addicts. Many of us do have jobs, but we can’t afford to pay for housing of any kind. Despite the shelters all over the city, there are too many of us to house. But honestly, like so many others, I’ve come to enjoy sleeping outside. I’ve learned great ways of finding safe places that not only provide me shelter from the weather, but aren’t as loud as a typical city street. Sure, I’ve slept on subway vents, on benches, in the corners of alleys, but my favorite spot is in church doorways. I feel closer to humanity there than anywhere else. People who come by the church seem to be more kind; more generous. I feel almost like I belong. Almost as if I’m touching the fringe of society. But, sometimes I wonder if it’s because church bricks remind me of those hours alone on the sidewalk as an infant and the comfort is just an illusion.
Yes, I’ve had places to call home. Many different places. But none of them were truly a home to me. I guess I was pretty lucky. All of my foster families believed in education – lots of reading and talking Lots of togetherness. They gave me all they could. The sad part is that everywhere I ended up, it seems someone was there to give more than I wanted. Whether it was a brother, a mother or even a father, there was always someone ready to lock the door and hold me captive while I fulfilled their desires. I learned quickly to not complain unless I had somewhere else to go.
Despite the issues, I would go back to any one of those homes. It would be so easy. So easy to have a place to call home again. But I don’t think any of them would take me back. I exposed their secrets. It doesn’t matter much now anyway, I aged out of the system. I’m on my own. No family to fall back on. It’s just me. Just like it was at the beginning.
For now, I spend my time doing my best to stay alive. Every night I feel the city shaking beneath my sleeping bag. It’s the hum of the subway, traffic and people that makes it feel like the ground is breaking. Some nights it’s comforting; others it is terrifying. Yet, the nights spent on the steps of the churches are those when I feel strongest. I feel like I can’t lose. I know I’ll be alright, I know I’ll be okay. With God at my back, I know I’ll live to see another day.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
If you like what you’ve read, please vote for me and 2 more favorites at the Speakeasy on Thursday.