Tabatha Deans

Bringing Integrity to the Written Word

WHAT IF I WERE HOMELESS?

WHAT IF I WERE HOMELESS?

               I have spent the last six weeks tromping about town in my winter boots, regardless of the fact that temperatures have been near 50 and no snow. I despise being cold, especially my feet, so have not taken any chances. By the time I make the one mile trek to the light rail station each morning, I’m drenched in sweat and nearing heat-stroke. But I’m prepared.

               Until the day I wasn’t.

I had ventured to the Good Doctor’s place directly from a business conference, clad in dress boots instead of winter boots, a fancy scarf instead of a warm scarf. The next morning was chilly but no sign of snow, and with only dress boots or tennis shoes at my disposal, I donned the tennis shoes and headed for the office. By early afternoon the snow was falling and the temperatures were dropping. At quitting time I reluctantly left the warmth of the office and headed to the bus stop, where, due to bad weather and driving conditions, I stood for nearly 45 minutes before the next bus made its way up the hill.

My feet were frozen, my cheeks were bright red and chapping, and my fingers trembled as I fiddled with my transit pass. Standing in the cold, ill-prepared, for so long gave me plenty of time to scold myself for not being prepared, and for my mind to wander to that dark place that we don’t really like to go.

What if I were homeless? What if I had nowhere to go to escape the cold? What if I didn’t have bus fare to get off the cold street and onto a warm bus? As the cold set in and my eyeballs neared freezing into icey orbs, I seriously pondered the question. Would I dare ask the people going in and out of the closest store if they could spare some money? Would anyone give me any? Maybe just enough for a hot cup of coffee.

After much thought I decided my first point of action if I were homeless would be to get the heck out of the colder areas. I would hitchhike to California, or Florida. Someplace warm. My second choice, if I was forced to stay in Denver, would be to find a nice place to dig a cave. The banks of the Platte River are home to many homeless people, but also a place for extreme abuse and killing. Being homeless, or sleeping outdoors anywhere near or in Denver is illegal, so I would need to keep a few steps ahead of the law.

So I believe I would find a nice suburb, like one near Tim and Mona’s or the office, where there is a park with a long walking path along the canal. Then I would dig a discreet cave in the bank, under the cover of shrubs or trees, and make a cozy fire. Of course in my mind, a shovel and plenty of energy to dig are miraculously provided. I believe I could make a nice little hole for myself, at least enough to survive. Maybe I’d catch squirrels for food, or hit the trash bins hoping for leftovers from people who sit in their cars at the park for their lunch hour, eating and reading a book or napping in their car.

My toes were officially  frozen and unable to move independently when I was roused from my pondering by the bus. I paid my fare and enjoyed the wall of warmth that greeted me on the bus. Another 20 minutes of waiting for the light rail left me frozen again, and the six block walk up the mall  was enough to convince me to splurge $5 for a cab ride the rest of the way home. The streets were full of groups of homeless people gathered together, sharing cigarettes and possibly using their bodies to stay warm. I wondered where they would stay tonight. How many of them would freeze. And if it was possible to achieve a state of slumber when temperatures were approaching zero.

Disturbed, I climbed the stairs to my 300 square feet of home, where I settled into my chair in front of the radiator, book in hand, trying to cleanse my mind of the injustice of humanity, and take my mind off the thought of having to sleep outside.

January 12, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Powerful, very honest essay.

    One of the unanticipated benefits of using public transportation is the opportunity to see, and the time to reflect on, things that are happening right in front of us, Often, as in your case, these turn out to be things we wouldn’t ordinarily think about, and given the choice, probably would rather not think about.

    One of the wonderful things about your post is how you got me to see in myself the same tendency to fantasize how much more easily I would handle a sudden reversal of fortune. It took me back to those grade school playground days when groups of us boys would try to outdo one another over how we’d handle whatever gripping threat yesterday’s TV show or weekend movie had stirred our fears and imaginations. I can count my blessings that reality has come in small enough doses to leave me relatively comfortable.

    Thank you for posting this.

    Comment by Busboy | January 20, 2013 | Reply


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