From the March 20 Street Roots on the streets today…
I am new. Portland may be my hometown, but suddenly it feels as foreign as some far-flung city in the Near East.
Why? Because I am new to the streets. So many names for it – I prefer to say I am becoming an urban gypsy, not that I am exploring my inner bum. But these are just semantics. The fact is, I have become homeless. The reasons for this are only important to myself, and quite frankly, some days even I fail to see their relevance, in the light of all these adjustments.
At 45 years old, being gloriously round, semi-crippled, with grey beginning to dance in the strands of my hairline, it didn’t occur to me that I would have to chose between protection and core values.
Yet here I am – trying to still the icy tentacles of fear racing along over-exposed nerve endings. I try desperately to sleep on this one street corner. I have turned down the dubious offer of “protection” from the bleary-eyed, slack-jawed man next to me – which leaves me alone with Maggie, my Italian greyhound, whose only saving grace seems to be her ability to give good shiver. I snort, trying to squash my sudden yearning for a mastiff on steroids – disloyal I know – but, oh, so momentarily true.
Just about the time that sleep begins to tease my senses, suddenly my blankets are ripped off my body.
“Who are you? This is my spot.”
The man who is drunk and currently clutching my blankets roars. My hands dart up, and I snatch the blankets back while my heart tries to rip itself out of my chest.
“Get out of here!” I finally manage to squeak out, dismayed that I don’t sound at all like the Billy Badass I was trying for, but much more like an angry gnat. Strangely, the man actually leaves – in spite of, not because of, my response.
I am woken up three more times this night by men walking past with suggestions for what I should do to “earn” protection from these interruptions to sanity. I spent the last two hours before dawn shivering under blankets with wide-open eyes and a thudding heart.
Note to self: This moment will pass. Just breathe past this terror. But right now, with the residue of last night’s adrenaline running in rivulets up and down my spine, I remain somewhat skeptical. Quite frankly, I would prefer to click my heels and just go home.
Oh yeah – right now, this is home. It appears that here in hell, it’s gonna be just another day in paradise.
By Julie McCurdy
This is an amazing and scary piece.
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