I mentioned spending time homeless in my latest post and didn’t expand on it so I figure I probably should. I have had several periods in my life where I was without a home — not that I forgot where I came from, just that I wasn’t able to have a roof under which to sleep.
For me, that was a bit of an odd situation because, while it did mean a few times that I had to sleep in the open air, which was unbelievably painful, I must admit, it usually meant sleeping in my car. Whether that qualifies as your definition of homeless, that’s a whole different discussion and, as usual, unless you’re a close friend, I don’t care what you think, anyway. And if you are a close friend, I won’t ask you what you think about this because it’s not really relevant. I don’t think of myself as being in the same boat as those who spend their lives sleeping on the side of the road in a sleeping bag and I’m not asking for your sympathy. I’m writing about this for a completely different purpose.
For about a year and a half of my life, I was completely unable to afford a place to live. I was teaching but, as many of you are likely aware, the amount that a junior college instructor makes is generally nowhere near the potential of paying rent in a studio or (dare one dream?) a one-bedroom apartment. I know what most people would think at this point — if you can’t afford to live alone, you have to share. And that’s what most instructors do. But, of course, I am terrified of people. Being alone is my deepest desire and I need isolation. Autism is part of the reason, phobia is another, the fact that I am an insular and quiet person who absolutely requires silence, separation and time of peace without fear is probably a greater part than the other two.
So I made a choice that, if I couldn’t live alone and be free, I would pack up my things, put everything I didn’t need immediately into a cheap storage locker or sell it (which is what happened to any furniture I had acquired by that point, leaving only a few boxes of treasured things I had been given over the years), put some suitcases, a pillow and a sleeping bag in my car and crash for the nights. I lived on nuts and dried fruit and rice cakes, slept outside the city under trees or parked on side-streets thanks to the magic of darkly tinted back windows. I forgot what it was like to sleep stretched out (cars aren’t really that wide) and discovered that it got unbelievably cold despite the insulation in a car once the heating was turned off and learned to sleep in sweaters in a winter sleeping bag zipped up over my head.
It wasn’t a terrible experience, honestly. Because it had two things going for it. One, my daily commute was pretty short because I didn’t have to go far away to find a place to sleep. Two, far more importantly, I could escape. The only thing I couldn’t escape was myself, which is unfortunate, as that’s what I most wanted to get away from, but I could get away from people. I couldn’t be found by anyone who wanted to hurt me — that may sound paranoid but, having been brutally attacked more times than I’d like to remember in my life by total strangers, simply based on who I am or how I present myself, it’s not paranoia, I assure you and I have the scars and physical damage to my body to prove it. I was anonymous and I had disappeared from a society that didn’t approve of me and that I hated with a passion that has never been matched with anything — oh for fluent spoken Japanese so I could immigrate! Eating was difficult — that’s really the only thing that was terrible about living in the car. But I survived.
Anyway, I know it was a curiosity for some who didn’t know me through that period of time when I mentioned it in the previous post. There’s the answer. A surprisingly up-beat post about not having a home, right? Even more surprising, given that for me to write positive things — or for any poet to write about something that’s not dark and sad, for that matter — is a bit of a shock, I know.