Friday, December 11, 2009

The Man Who Liked Being Homeless.

He never cried, not even when his mother died. He wished he could cry. It didn’t do any good but at least he remembered he was human. The tears didn’t fall. What happened to the good ole days when an old man could have a secure job? It didn’t happen anymore, no sir, it didn’t. Times were changing. Faces changed, too. One day you had a best friend and the next day he was your worst enemy. It happened to Tom McCaw, too. He was a nice fellow but sometimes things didn’t work out for him. It was a lesson he had to learn on his own. A woman tapped him on the shoulder. “Sir,” she said. “Are you all right?” Surprised to see her standing behind him, h e shrunk inside himself and didn’t answer. Tom was homeless and as the months and years went past, he grew more and more introverted and he didn’t want to talk to anyone. But, she talked to him first and homeless people were polite, especially the men. He studied her. She was pretty. Her blonde hair was pretty. He expected to be alone. It was dark outside, but it wasn’t late out. It was the time between sunset and just after dark. A calm wind blew. It was cold. It was October. October was always cold. He discovered this after moving to New York from somewhere else. He would rather not discuss his life before New York and what it meant to him. Which was nothing. He didn’t want to talk about his problems with a stranger. Especially not a pretty stranger. It wasn’t a good idea to talk about your life with strangers. Maybe he was losing it. Maybe that was all right. Losing it should be a new law. He thought about the White House and all the strange going-ons in politics and he realized he didn’t want to work in politics ever again. He worked in politics once, for the Mayor of Shuttesburg. The Mayor of Shuttesburg asked if he wanted to be President of the United States. He responded with a resounding, “No way!”
He quit the next week and got another job at Morgan & Stanley. Morgan & Stanley was a stock broker company and also helped smaller companies thrive on the side. It was a long way from getting a degree in law school and his father was surprised by his change in careers and didn’t comment. His father never said anything about anything he did. Tom learned to welcome it. He was glad he didn’t have children. He didn’t have to explain to anyone the idiocy of the world and why he couldn’t change the government.
“I’m fine,” he answered hastily. “Just…a little lost.” He smiled encouragingly at her, praying she would move along or that she wouldn’t see the fear burning behind his eyes, or maybe the fear was passion. Maybe he was an artist and he wanted to draw the building or maybe he used to own it. Angela heard the Mayor had to sell the building to New Jersey in order to pay off a loan. That would be like him. Mayor Yettle McKenzie was a cheapskate. Most politicians were. They couldn’t help it. Angela found it was best to ignore it and move on with her life. She wasn’t even in real estate.
“Do you need any help?” she asked. “Are you homeless?” A little alarm bell went off in her brain. She shouldn’t be talking to him. She should be running in the opposite direction. She shouldn’t have walked home from work. She should have gotten in the taxi. She only had ten dollars on her, enough for a hot dog and a small Pepsi. New York was getting more expensive every year. He was a strange man staring up at a building and she had to get home and fix meatloaf for dinner. She was hungry. She continued to stare at the man looking up at the building. She wanted to look away but couldn’t. It was like staring at the sun. Something big and shiny.
“I don’t need any help,” he answered, shaking his head. “I’m lost in thought. Thinking.” He smiled. He was pleased. It was a good response. She muttered something about “crazy pedestrians,” and moved along. He didn’t want to talk to anyone. He was bitter about his lack of communication skills. He was bitter about a lot of things, especially his wife who left him three months before and he hadn’t gotten over it and didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. His uncle advised him to get over it with a lawyer but Tom loved her still and didn’t want to put her through all of it. He signed the divorce papers without any fuss or muss and they didn’t have children, just a house with a meadow and a beat-up Chevy and she said he could keep the Chevy. He kept the Chevy. “Something’s going to happen,” he muttered. “Something not good.” The feel of it was all wrong. The feel of everything. The feel of both night and day and the wind crept up behind him and sang and tugged at his ear and the sound of voices on the edge of his vision, the vision of someone following him, speaking to him about God and Heaven and the angels and Da Vinci and Mozart. It was just like his dream. The dream of waking plagued him. He, too, moved along. He used to live in a house with a large backyard. His mother begged him to get a pet and he replied he didn’t have enough money to take care of it, he’d probably end up naming it Margaret or Joe or after some stupid piece of fruit and wouldn’t take care of it very good. He showed her. He showed everyone he could take care of a pet and the guinea pig lived to be very old. Now he was dead and Tom was lonely and alone and he wanted to live in a house and thought he couldn’t afford it. The market was different. He lived in the 70s and everything was so cheap it was practically free. Tom went into the grocery store and bought a loaf of bread and bologna. He went to Central Park and huddled under a large oak tree and ate three sandwiches, one right after the other. His father wouldn’t be happy to see him like this. His father wouldn’t be happy to see he was homeless and not poor. He bought a newspaper and pulled out the classified ads and spread them on the grass, looking at the apartments. He had almost one thousand dollars saved. That would be enough to pay the deposit and the first month’s rent. He had six hundred dollars on him and he could be a coke distributor, if worst came to worst. Everyone was looking for coke. The business was booming. Coke was a huge seller. Tom sighed and put the paper away. He called one of the ads on an apartment and she said she could meet him tomorrow at 4pm. That was almost a whole day away. He was going to have to think about what to do until then. Maybe he could see a movie.
A movie would take his mind off a lot of things. Like finding a good apartment. He had to wait for his meeting with the apartment manager.
The movie was okay. Actually, it sucked. The plot was muddled. He didn’t understand the plot. It was about falling in and out of love. Tom didn’t understand love. He fixed cars and bought businesses that made millions and he got one percent of the share. Being a sell-out was easy. It's what he did best.
New York City was cold. The cold burned his cheeks. He wound up standing outside the apartment complex office fifteen minutes before the manager arrived. She was tall and blonde. Tom liked. He showed her his bank statements. He told her he’d never been evicted. She asked where he was living now. He said he had a P.O. Box. It was good enough. Tom moved in the next day. Business at his job was booming and the week after that he went to a furniture store and bought a table, a desk, and a bed. It was an air mattress and fit the bedroom perfectly. Tom couldn’t sleep. He missed being homeless. He missed Tom.

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