After several false starts this morning, I found myself alone on a park bench near my home. I arrived well before any children would be out of school, and just as the current shift of homeless men were finishing up their day drinking. Feeling a bit down I was already on my third lollipop of the day. I watched the men from across the empty playground, as they lumbered out of the park and off towards the nearby shelter for the afternoons feeding. From there, feeling refueled they would be about town mustering the coinage for their evening dosage. Which would most likely be consumed after dinner at The Salvation Army on the other side of downtown.
I recalled the schedule well, thinking about my own wilderness years as a vagrant. Living day-to-day by the good graces, and gullibility of others. For the time being it seemed so much easier than pushing headlong against the very daunting task of recovering my old life; then finally accepting the reality that I would never have it back. Not that life, but eventually a life.
In many ways it was a happy existence. Full of mornings spent loitering in parks like this one, with little on my mind outside a buzz. Every day was a social event, if only because no one could avoid true privacy. My own troupe of vagabonds would sit around various benches and picnic tables of the city. Prerolling our tobacco, talking road side philosophy and pseudo-mysticism. Then spend the late hours chatting up locals, who had much less experience with inebriation than we did, talking them into buying us booze or sharing their drugs. As the bars closed and the marks thinned we’d slink off to whatever semi-safe little bolt holes we had prepared for ourselves.
The problem with being a bum is that it’s migratory work. Trick is to leave town before someone realizes they’ve been taken advantage of, while everyone still remembers the good times they had with you around. It’s either that or dig in and put down roots for the long angles of at least appearing to be a respectable member of society. When my exit window came up I was tired of traveling, and weary of the constant hustle. I began dabbling in the real world menace of holding down an actual job and paying my own way. I began having actual relationships with people again.
Nothing serious at first. A friend or two, people I liked talking to instead of convenient acquaintanceships built on mutual self-interest. A series of mindless jobs that didn’t pay shit, ones to pay some bills but, I could slough off whenever they annoyed me. I girlfriend here or there, nothing romantic, just some occasional intimacy. Building blocks, baby steps. A toe in the pool of society just to test the waters. I’d been burned on this deal before.
It took forever it seems, maybe it really did. I don’t have everything I want, but I do have a lot. A decent job, despite a few things. A great wife. A wonderful daughter. Semi-permanent housing and a few material niceties. If I keep working at it one day I might even become financially stable. All in all things are good, at least better than they used to be. I have my life again, maybe not my old one, but it’s still mine
Yet on my darker days I still think about giving it all up and walking off towards the sunset. Disappear out of everyone’s life again, for the third or fourth time. Can’t really keep track anymore. Just some times it gets to be too much. To be honest I really do miss the adventurous uncertainty of it all. Plus there’s a certain comfort in being no one in particular.
But, I’m too old, and too sober, and I let myself get in too deep. It’s my life, but it’s not just mine anymore.
That’s a good thing, just in case you were wondering.
Anyway that’s what’s on my mind.