Survival Guide to Homelessness

No matter where you go, there you are.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The First Time I Ran

I write now about my family property in Perris, CA. The darkness at night is only mildly mitigated by the lights of neighboring properties. It is alive with sound, dogs, the crowing of an insomniac rooster, crickets, the hoot of an owl, the lowing of a steer, the engines of a jet. People who have never lived in the country imagine a quiet and serene place, but nothing could be further from reality. The stars are bright, much brighter than in the city, and they light the landscape eerily, stark, black sillouettes of trees cast wild shadows as if reaching out to seize passersby. It is a beautiful place to have a campfire and watch a meteor shower with a group of friends. On the night I left though, it was a place to strike fear in the bravest of young men.

At that time I believed myself the bravest of men. Seventeen and willing to face down anything. Seventeen and not willing to be dominated by parents. Seventeen and ready for war, but even so, knowing how weak I was.

I knew in advance I would be caught. I knew I would be caught before I left the door of the trailer I slept in. I knew, too, that with the knowledge I gained from the first attempt, I'd get away the second time.

How can I tell the story? I was seventeen, and I had not yet conquered all fear. I was terribly afraid of dogs, of my father, of myself and what I might be capable of doing in my adolescent pain and rage. I ran not only for myself, but like a werewolf, I ran away from the people I thought I would hurt if they caught me at the wrong time.

I set out around 3:00 a.m., in a night of noise, and the baying of dogs seemed to follow through the darkness. Hell's furies could not have terrified me more. It was several miles to town, and I had only the vaguest idea how to get there. I had taken the back route, over dirt roads, to avoid my father if he noticed me gone during the night, but I deeply regretted the decision as the baying of the dogs seemed nearer and nearer, and the darkness seemed almost complete, closing in on me like a physical thing.

I ran, fear making the sweat from my exertions stink and cling to me. My only thought was that I must reach town before the dog pack found me. I was lost, though, in the deep darkness so like a nightmare. I only knew the direction I had to run, and the notion that I had gotten turned around and lost even my sense of direction was too chilling to contemplate.

Finally I found the main road, and the light of the sign of a Circle K was as welcome to me as the sight of land to a person in a lifeboat. I went in and asked how to get to the town, and the clerk told me I was nearly there and how to finish the journey.

My father picked me up at the Greyhound station the next morning. I cursed myself for being so obvious, and began to plot my next escape, barely noticing the angry dressing down my father directed at me.

I was running to be homeless. Nothing could stop me. The pimps, prostitutes, thieves, drug dealers, cops, social workers, preachers, and various other villains didn't scare me. They were waiting, but they didn't scare me. Only the baying of family pets, joined by the pets on the surrounding properties frightened me. Only the dark and lost feeling I had brought real fear.


At 1:46 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Alright people... Stop sending me religious instruction. I won't publish those comments and they jut upset me. Keep it up and I'll just have to take this article down.

At 5:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the way you write. I've read most of your posts. I'm afraid you might call me a Christian but I promise, no religious cheese from me. Just keep writing - I'm learning a lot

(from Ontario, Canada)

At 12:03 AM, Blogger Sky said...

This is like the first a chapter in a book. I really really want to see what happens next! Can't help it... I'm hooked.

You are a fantastic writer.

At 2:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I second the 'this sounds like a chapter in a book'. I hope you eventually write one one day.

At 9:49 AM, Blogger TMannis said...

'The First Time I Ran' reads like a novella. You are a very talented writer. It is my honor to add you to my blogroll. Keep it up, and thanks also for all of the practical advice on your blog.

At 7:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your story reminds me of when I was 17 years old and ran away from home. It was a tough life that followed, too. But it was better than what I left behind.

At 1:36 PM, Blogger hippie said...

Thanks for writing this. At 17in the USA, you know you will be free at 18.

I grew up in an Asia country, where daughters and sons were considered the father's property until age 21. Some parents are loving and protective, others were abusive and exploitative, esp towards the females. The law was on the side of the parents. There was no child protective service.

At 1:39 PM, Blogger hippie said...

Bravo, perhaps you can write about other times you run. I hope you can leave "home" legally, and didn't have to run any more when you turned 18.

I enjoy reading your writing very much.

At 1:07 AM, Blogger Le Loup said...

I think the first time I packed my case & left home I was about 7 years of age. My Father caught me before I even reached the road!

Finally I left home at about age 19-20 years, I came to Australia on my own. Looking back I wished I had payed more attention to the foods that my Mother bought. Such a simple thing, but I was totally lost when it came to shopping for inexpensive foods!

Now I can survive long term in the wilderness if I need to. I live in a forest with my wife. We are off the grid & have a solar powered home now, but we & our three boys lived an 18th century lifestyle for over 20 years.

I often wonder why so many homeless people live in town, sheltering under bridges etc. Why not live in the bush?

At 5:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

]: i am 19 tired .. can't take it anymore i wish i could go somewhere where no one know me and start a new life i am suffering since i was 15 ... everything at home just cause me pain .. what did we do to deserve this i wish our parents would pay attention to how much suffer they cause us each day.....

At 8:17 PM, Blogger hippie said...

Anon, You are 19. You can leave home and find work legally. I hope you can get away from it soon.

At 9:42 PM, Blogger hippie said...

It seems religions only admonish about ungrateful children, never talk about abusive violent parents. Parents are always right even when they are totally unpredictable in their so called "punishment". I was pleasant surprised to hear a Buddhist monk form China asking parents to treat their children with respect. Most of time, they talk about be grateful to the parents, no matter how abusive the parents were.

At 1:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my life I have only been homeless for a day. But where we live, we are on our third inspection and if we don't pass than we will be. We being my wife, dog and I. We have been busting our asses cleaning like mad people. Vacuumed and shampooed the carpet with a rug doctor. I, myself, when I was 19, left home, not because I wanted to, but my dad needed me out of the house to care for my mom who had cancer. I was in a halfway house for 6 months, another halfway house for 3 months in a town 2 hours away. After that, lived in a motel for 2 weeks, then various apartments. Moved back to town. Various apartments until I met my wife. Our final inspection (d-day ) is at 9am cst. Wish us luck. I will be fine if we will be homeless, but it will be really hard on my wife. :/

At 1:44 PM, Anonymous Karl Craig said...

Crazy Story MobileHomemaker, and Good Writing- Baying of dogs reminded me of Lovecraft.
- Wild Comments too. Yes I been Transitional Homeless for a Year and I never have ever been to a Shelter, Food Bank, or Begged for Anything- I Work normal jobs, then go sleep in a ditch.
I do like one person Commented- Sleep in the Woods.
People Idealize the "Freedom" but it isnt free to me. I walk 20miles a day now without blinking- I find myself sick to my stomach from fatigue. I dont see community, I see people who are confused how to handle me. Im Normal enough and Friendly, Bums ask me for change so I must look like I have something going- yet my biggest challenge is Friends. No Network.
Careful Kids, Starting over may sound good but if you are like me- you may be Alone outside of Life in More Ways than just Outside.
Theres Homeless then there is Derelict. Folks are Ill, Handicapped, or Mentally Disabled- then there are Able Bodies who are Idle, Drinking - Smoking - Feeling Too Much - some just Lazy.
Folks like me I am not sure even exist- working and trying to make ends meet- get indoors - get back to school? it doesnt matter - we are all stigmatized as Living Dead.

At 3:37 PM, Blogger Mike Mabon said...

This story reminds me of when i left home (very similar situations) and I would hate to see any of your pages taken down because of relogious nuts. Being homeless on and off for about 10 years (i'm 25 now) I've almost been sucked into shelters by religion and it would have been my worst mistake. PLEASE keep writing. You are such an inspiration, and have made homeless life better for me.


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