I never thought my life would come to this. How far down I would slide, I had no idea. Nothing quite makes sense anymore. Walking and walking and walking. No one there for me. No way to set my mind at ease. When you don’t know where you are going, what you are going to do to survive, if you’ll make it through the night, well then there is no peace of mind.
I decide to try and walk to the outskirts of town, into the more mountainous areas and find an abandoned cabin to stay at. But walking even 10 miles in a day is tough without proper nourishment and hydration, and when you are deathly depressed and disenfranchised with life and have given up on there being anything good in life. I only make it down the road a few miles before I give up, exhausted.
I've got $10 in my pocket. I walk into a 24-hour Walgreens and buy a box of Pop-Tarts and a cheap bottle of wine. Pop-Tarts are some of the most calorie-rich food items for the price, and a bottle of wine to keep me warm and awake while I struggle through this night.
I never developed a taste for alcohol until I started living in the streets and woods. I will never doubt again that despite any reason a homeless person has for becoming homeless, he only now keeps drinking because it's all that will dull his pain. He has nothing else to live for anyway.
I walk out of Walgreens, down onto the greenway; there are some nice benches there for me to enjoy my food and drink. I take a short nap before the cold sets in again.
I had a vague idea that homeless people in New York probably sleep on heating vents. But try as hard as I might, I can't find any machinery behind any buildings that gives off any heat in this godforsaken town.
To get out of the eye of any cops or other cars driving by, I lay on a cold concrete slab behind the Dollar General. As dawn approaches, and rays of light finally reach my shivering body, I am wide awake and hopeless at the prospect of another day like this before me.
A diner opens up, and I come in to order some coffee. Not enough money for food, but what little dignity I have left won't allow me to go around begging.
I have the idea to walk and hitch-hike to Johnson City, Tennessee, to try and stay at the Veterans Hospital. It takes a few days; I walk most of the miles, get rides for some of it. I get there after dark, and although everything was closed for the evening, I find a heated little shack for smoking cigarettes outside the main building; inside the shack there is an old couch-like seat from a van. I lie down and get comfortable, so thankful to finally have some warmth for the night.
An hour later, two police officers walk into the shack and ask me to stand up. They have disposable plastic gloves on for the search, cementing the identity of a disgusting, freakish person deeper into my brain. They let me know that it's a felony to be on VA property if you don't have an appointment; I need to be on my way, and I am lucky they aren't taking me to jail. In all honesty, I would prefer to be in jail. But I walk away without a word, into the night.
I walk aimlessly through this unfamiliar town. It's raining and now even more imperative to keep moving and stay warm. The endless cars driving by make me feel so worthless. Hundreds and thousands of witnesses streaming by on the road, most of them aware of the pain I might be going through, but they awkwardly look away whenever eye contact is made. The fact that so many people are going home to their loved ones, to their warm homes, to their pets and children and friends and family... after a while it makes me sick to think of it. Warm showers, hot food, a comfortable couch and a television; internet, computers, beds. I can't stand the thought of it.
Only the most worthless piece of trash can sit on the side of the road in obvious despondence and pain, with hundreds and thousands of people driving by, and not a one of them stop to see if you are okay. They must not realize that I grew up in a loving family, that I once had a Mom, a Dad, siblings, pets, a warm home, and a comfortable life. But now I'm discarded filth, set by the side of the road for you to avert your eyes and cringe at the thought of living such a way.
But I don't blame them. Nor do I have any resentment for them.
The days drag by in a similar fashion. And despite being on the streets in a busy town, it had been days and days since I had talked to a human being—since having even a kind glance in my direction. And again, I don't blame any of those people. I understand. After being ignored by so many people, I start to lose my grip on reality. I'm not sure that I even exist. But the fact that I am in such an acute level of pain, not any physical pain except for the cold, but a sense of despair and hopelessness beyond comprehension manifest in a very real physical discomfort... the pain alerts me to the fact that this is indeed real.
Once I'm to the point that I'd rather be in jail, rather be dead if at all possible, I make a conscious decision to start stealing small food items from stores to alleviate my hunger and try to stay warm. Maybe if it was summer, and I wasn't so cold as well as being hungry, I might not do such a thing. Others may look down on the decision to steal, and hey, maybe I actually am a bad person that I am capable of doing such a thing. But it's what I decide to do.
I steal small, cheap items, such a Ramen Noodles, and eat the dry noodles in the woods beside the grocery store. Gradually, I work my way up to stealing milk and peanuts and bananas. I need to try to have some amount of energy. But I am gripped by the pointlessness of my existence, and wonder where I am supposed to go from here. I can't possibly live the rest of my life like this.