Panhandling Part I
November 22, 2011
— #addictions, #HCV, #homeless, #newlife, #recovery, #streetlife
I walk down the street, miserable, alone, cold and wet, these autumn rain falls sure are something else when you live outdoors. I try to keep warm by shuffling down the street, I hold my sleeping bag tightly around me, my own private and protective cocoon. The cold, though, is in my bones and I just can’t seem to warm up so I add a little hop to my shuffle to try keep the blood flowing. I walk into the entrance of a bank. It is around 4am and not many people are around, I watch as the frost settles down on everything around me and seems to draw abstract art on my sleeping bag as I shuffle along. I need to stay warm, sleeping outside at night can be dangerous if you don’t have the proper necessities and I didn’t have them at that moment.
I walk past a Bank. I stop and look inside. No one there. I walk in and I cuddle up to the heater trying to get some of the warmth to transfer to my clothes and sleeping bag. I use the opportunity to take off my boots and socks and dry them out on the heater because wet, cold feet can cause a lot of problems. I try to use my sleeping bag as a way of holding the heat in as I press my face up against the grate. definitely have to get a toque and scarf soon.
Someone walks in to use the bank machine and I try to make myself invisible so they don’t feel threatened by me being there, I really don’t want to scare anybody. Once he finishes with his business and he start to walk out, I look up and make eye contact and attempt a feeble smile. He smiles warmly and I look away, I don’t feel worthy of such a kind-hearted smile. He reaches into his pocket and peels off a $5.00 bill and hands it to me then turns and walks out the door. All this occurred without one word being exchanged.
I cuddle close to the heater again, I can feel it starting to radiate through the cold, wet clothes I am wearing. My socks are just starting to dry and my boots are hopelessly wet but at least it will be a warm wet for a while. I can smell the odor from my boots and all the heat seems to be doing is making them smell up the place. I have to do what I have to do though to take care of myself the best I can so I just let them sit there and air out leaning against the heater.
Another person walks into the bank to use the machine. A lady this time. Again I try to make myself small and invisible. She gives me a look of contempt and I can catch a sense of fear in her demeanor. That is not good, I hurry to pull on my socks and boots, wrap myself in my sleeping bag and shuffle back outside. I don’t want anyone to feel scared of me or think they are at risk of being robbed by me. I take the opportunity to relieve myself behind the building. As I come back to the front door I see her walking out. She is on the phone so I am not able to ask her for change. I walk back into the bank after she has gotten into her car and I press up against the heater again.
I quickly drift off to sleep feeling a little more comfortable, safe and warm. I wake up with a start. disoriented, I try to get my bearings quickly. I notice it is still dark out, men are yelling at me making me feel discombobulated. I see the strips on the pants of two pairs of legs. Police. I close my eyes and sigh, so much for getting some much-needed sleep. One of them sees me close my eyes and gives me a light kick in the top of the head. Steeltoed boots hurt your head even when the kick is a light one and I open my eyes to see small stars swimming around me. I sit up and slowly stand up, allowing the officers to see my hands at all times, I know better than to stand up to quickly or to have my hands hidden, I had learnt that lesson a long time ago. The cobwebs clear after a second or two. I can finally focus on the faces of the officers that so rudely woke me up.
“OUT!”, one of them commanded, “You know you are not allowed in here Randy”, says the other. I mumble a feeble explanation about wet feet and mumble obscenities as I am escorted out to the sidewalk. One of the officers gives me an apple and the other one gives me a bus ticket so I can get soup kitchen. I am given a stern warning, “We better not have anyone else call in to complain about you being in here”, says one of the officers, “Keep quiet about the ticket, we aren’t suppose to do that”, says the officer giving me a stern look. They turn and walk back to their car and I continue to mumble obscenities after them. I really didn’t care much about the ticket or food at that point in time, I really couldn’t get over the fact they had woken me up. I finally shuffle on.
I resume my hopping, sidewinder, limping, rolling gait and take a bite of the apple. I realize that today is starting out pretty good. In fact I’m set to face another day, I have $5.00 for breakfast, a bus ticket I will use to go down to St. Johns Kitchen so I can have lunch and get some clean socks and look for dry boots and maybe another pair of pants because 2 pairs of pants just aint warm enough. I smile feebly again as I pass another person and hold out my hand and ask, “excuse me sir would you be able to help me out with a bit of change by chance?”….