A Nightmare Birthday
It’s my birthday. I wake up excited like I do every year on this day. My partner of fourteen years has been unusually grumpy the last couple of weeks. So I decide to make today a mellow day. An on the couch snuggling, movie kind of day. I put out some snacks and pick out a movie and then all of a sudden there are sheriffs around me, telling me to leave the property.
I have five minutes. What? They can’t do this, I live here! But they can do this. I grab my dogs and their food with no place to go. I go out to the edge of the carport where there is some shade and I just cry, and cry. I’m out there for over eight hours. I didn’t even have water for the dogs. My now ex-partner of fourteen years was too afraid to tell me to my face that he has decided to end our relationship so that he can start a relationship with this twenty-eight-year-old prostitute that he has been seeing.
Finally, I call my son. He picks me up. My ex is nowhere to be found and everything is locked up. My life will never be the same again. And what I’m thinking most as we climb into his vehicle is, “stop looking at me.” As all the neighbors have been watching this unfold.
Fighting for My Life
Over the next two days, I get a court date set and the judge allows me to go back home. The eviction was illegal and immoral. I get back home and my “area” has been separated from the rest of the house.
My belongings are gone, everything! I’m not leaving! We go to court again. Again, the judge permits me to be there. I feel like I am fighting for my life. As everybody watches me play a fool. “Stop looking at me.”
I learn what fighting for my life means when three days later I was beaten so badly that I now have no teeth. [Most of her facial bones had been shattered as well.] I hurt everywhere, and I have no memory of what happened. I keep running. I find a friend. She helped me but I didn’t want to stay there long because everyone who comes to her place keeps giving me that look. Shock. Sympathy. “Stop looking at me.” I again call my son. He gets my dogs for me and I go to his place. I stayed inside for eight and a half months, mostly out of fear.
Sleeping on Cardboard
Then my son had to move for his new job and I am facing the world. I really have no place to go. I grab my dogs and we begin that walk. The walk with no destination and I am sure that everybody I pass is watching me. “Stop looking at me.”
After eight and a half months inside, to being outside completely, so many changes happened. Survival kicked in. Instinctively, I found a piece of cardboard to sleep on top of. The worst part wasn’t sleeping on the ground. The worst part was waking up, in the park, with people doing park things and watching me. “Stop looking at me.”
Making my way to the food line every day, to the resources for a change of clothes and a backpack. I even came up on new dog dishes for my loyal companions. I also came up on the worst sunburn that I ever had. It required medical attention. The homeless doctor was great, giving me the medicine I needed. She even gave me a hat to keep it from getting worse.
Between the heat and the blistering burns, I was getting tired easily. I sat down on the edge of a building and closed my eyes. A few minutes later I was woken up by someone I used to know. He says, “Is that really you? What happened to you? I will be back.” I sat by that building until dark. They never came back. I missed dinner. The way they looked at me when they asked “What happened to you?” I wanted to scream, “Stop looking at me!”
I heard those words in my head every day over the next year. “Stop looking at me.” By the time somebody found me, that could help my situation, I was angry, withdrawn, mistrusting of almost everyone.
But this one was different because she didn’t look at me. She made me feel like I was a human being. I listened to her, followed her advice. She built me up on the inside and gave me the “inner strength” that I needed to get myself out of the park, out of the elements, and into a place, with my dogs. Safe!
My story doesn’t end there. It continues. I still have issues. I don’t like to leave my house, mostly because my ex stalks me, watches me, and makes me still want to yell, “Stop looking at me!” But life continues. I deal with my issues and live my life day by day. A little bit healthier, a little bit warmer, a little bit safer, and with a new outlook on life. I feel like I have been returned to humanity.
What if …
Being homeless will take you to unbelievable places. It drives you mad, makes you angry, removes you from life.
What if… what if everyone came together and demanded “that new housing be built.” What if everyone came together and pulled money out of their pockets for a construction company to build a place for the homeless to go, a privately-owned building. There are so many plans that never get put into action. So many ideas that never leave the paper. The thing though that is so overlooked, the thing that would help so many people…is to stop looking at them.
When you see someone on the edge of a building, down on their luck, homeless, try as you are passing by to put your hand on their shoulder, look them in the eye and simply say, “try to have a better day friend.” When you see someone who has the desire to not be desperate anymore, sit next to them in the park, start a conversation. Something, anything to remind them that they are still human beings.