Give Me Shelter: Seeking Warmth

by admin on October 23, 2011

Give Me Shelter

Seeking Warmth

            It’s officially fall, with winter only eight very short weeks away. There is a chill in the air in the early October evening, with the temperature dropping out side to a brisk fifty-five. Not cold enough to break out your heavy duty, fur-lined coat, but definitely sweater wearing weather or a light jacket. He felt the change of weather almost two weeks ago. It came slithering into the middle of the week, disrupting his eighty degree week with a sprinkling of sixty to sixty-five days. Those days were overcasts so he thought nothing of them, ignoring them as freak weather occurrences. But now, fall has come on strong, with the night time temperatures flirting in the low fifties. You still can’t see your breathe, it’s not that cold, but that part was definitely in the mail, special delivery. Heart heavy with fear of another season of struggle, a shiver rattles throughout his body, starting at the top of his head, traveling down his spine, finally making its way down to his toes where is settles and remains.

He knows what the cold weather brings and it frightens him to no end. It brings freezing temperatures, shortness of breath, hunger and a slew of bad memories of being homeless and sleeping on trains and in bus stations. For as long as he could remember, every time the temperature dropped, his life was horrible. Usually unemployed and penniless during these times with nowhere to call home, he dreaded the cold, especially once winter reared its unforgiving head. Winter bought snow, and snow was his biggest fear because snow meant obviously colder conditions, lack of work (when he was employed), and a diminishing of his already low spirits. While the citizens of the cities he has lived in enjoyed the change of seasons, prepping themselves for the holidays with renewed vigor and urgency, he would do the opposite, becoming even more anti-social and fearing the worse; as if Armageddon was specifically coming for him, fire, brimstone and all. These were the bad times, as far as he was concerned. Not Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years could change his mind about that.

Many of his holidays were spent riding trains. He would purchase a ticket, enter the station like a normal passenger, take his seat, preferably next to a window and pull his hooded sweat jacket down over his head, almost covering his eyes. He would close his eyes, listening to the voices of the passengers around him blended with the train’s screeching brakes, announcer’s voice, and the opening and shutting of its doors at each station stop. Eventually all of these sounds became one, and he would drift off to sleep; his head finding a home against the car’s plexi-glass window. The nudge of a new passenger sitting next to him once the old one left would briefly startle him, waking him from his deep, train-induced sleep if only for a second before he would doze off again, readjusting himself for the remainder of the ride. He would hope he didn’t snore too loudly; it was bad enough that he had to sleep on a train, but to ruin everyone else’s ride bothered him to no end. With arms folded tight against his chest, sleep would overtake him again as the train carried him up and down its service line, him having no particular place to go.

He would wake out of his slumber having no idea where he was or how long he had been out. Wiping the sleep from his blood-shot eyes, focusing his sight, he would look around himself, surveying his surroundings. People were engaged in conversation about this and that. Babies cried. Musicians bearing instruments or simply singing performed quick numbers and just as quickly leave at the next station. Tourists gawked in awe at the advertisements that lined the walls above them and around them, easily amused at the hustle and bustle of the commuters, with their suitcases and backpacks littered with airline tags and bottled water. There were others like him as well; homeless and tired, needing a place to come in from the cold. They too had bags and backpacks, only theirs held everything they owned in this world; soiled, ripped and stained from their many days of transient living. For many, it had been years. He would lock eyes with them with an exchange of knowing passed between two luckless, unfortunate strangers. Nothing to see here, back to sleep he thinks.

The bus stations were the worse. He would stagger into the nearest bus station, escaping the frigid air with what little belongings he possessed and grab one of the uncomfortable wire-meshed stationary seats that seem to be the norm in train stations across the country. Pulling his hood over his head, he would let sleep overtake him as he watched the travelers come and go all about him. After a good twenty or so minutes, his body would start to relax as the cold left his body and it welcomed back warmth, making sleep possible. The white noise of the commuters passing in front of him, hurried and rushed, combined with the busses’ grinding brakes and roaring engines as they arrived and exited helped to put his mind at ease, causing him to literally crash within minutes. The only thing that ever woke him would be the banging of a baton on the seat right next to him or a kicking of one of his shoes by a policeman. He would jump up disoriented from his nap, and ramble off a lie to as why he was sleeping there as they stood over him, ready to physically remove him should he become belligerent or non- compliant during his answering. They never bought it, and once again outside into the cold he went, the cold air abruptly clearing his foggy senses, making his eyes water fiercely. He would come across another station or sleep in a subway entrance until the morning arrived where he would have yet another day to hustle up somewhere to sleep and more importantly, eat.

And now his arch-enemy cold is upon him again, reminding him how cold and cruel the world actually is and how small and insignificant he is against the power of Mother Nature. Pulling his coat up around his shoulders, hanging his head down in defeat, he trudges on, with the wind not giving him any mercy as it bears down on him, chilling him to his core.


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