Don’t get me wrong: there is no place I would rather be. Jerusalem! The holiness of the place is breathtaking. I don’t have to even go anywhere, just sit still in one place and bask in the holiness of the Holy City, to feel whole and content.
Therein lies the rub: I don’t have the luxury of sitting still in one place, because I don’t have a place.
The original plan was to spend ten weeks with He Who Shall Not Be Named. But, as I have previously explained, that blew up into violent confrontation, and I fled from that place. Luckily I have many friends here, having lived in Jerusalem for four years before I had to return to America to help my aged parents. There is one in particular who would do literally anything for me, and he vacated his master suite and slept on the couch until my guilt feelings at displacing him overcame me, and I rented a vacation apartment for a week, to be followed by a studio apartment sublet for the six weeks remaining to my stay here.
I was looking forward to that studio, cozy and sweet with a rooftop garden. Then I got a tearful phone call from the girl I was to sublet from: she has bedbugs. Aaaargh! I had to hand it to her, she is an honest person. She could have just left me with the awful problem, and then I would have been stuck with having all my luggage contaminated in addition to getting bitten and having to find a new place, with the worry of transporting the little demons into the bargain.
So I called my loyal friend again (actually we text and phone constantly all day anyway) and as soon as he heard the news he insisted that I come back to his place. At least now his roommate has moved out and there is a bedroom open for me, and I don’t have to feel guilty about displacing him from his room, no matter how much he insists he “loves sleeping on the couch.” There’s a limit.
So what have I got to whine about? I have a place to stay, with a good friend, and in fact I am surrounded by good friends and love on all sides. My problem, dear readers, is that even now while I am typing this, I am exhibiting avoidance behavior, because what I should really be doing is packing to leave this vacation apartment and go to my friend’s place, two blocks away.
You see, there was once a big block of time when I had no place to live. The only way I could avoid spending the night on the street (which meant no sleep because sleeping when you are on the street is a very dangerous thing to do) was to hook up with a man and spend the night at his place. Which I did, over and over and over. At first I counted them, but when I got over 200 I stopped counting. Actually I lost track.
I must say that the vast majority of them were really good sorts, and did not abuse me. Some were kind to me and fed me, and some even gave me a dollar or two to go to the Taco Bell and get something to eat. I never “did it for money” because I had been raised with a horror of such a thing. So I did it for a roof over my head, safety from the dangers of the streets, and (hopefully) something to eat.
I rarely had the courage to ask for a shower unless the guy wanted to shower with me, which fortunately was often. Otherwise I just went without. It was a miserable existence. I was always on the run from the police because I was 16, 17 at the time and they would have arrested me for being a vagrant juvenile, and I would have been sent “home,” which I dreaded more than anything, which was why I was on the run to begin with.
Home is where the heart is
Home is so remote
Home is my emotions
Sticking in my throat
Let’s go to your place
So it was: moving, moving, moving, almost every night. Once in a while a guy would want me around for two or three nights, until he got bored with me. Then there was the awkward moment: “Um, Lady, I love you a lot, but….” and I would pack up my spare pair of underwear and toothbrush, and head back out to the street.
If I didn’t score with a guy, I had to wander all night, staying on the move, watching out for predators and cops. Not safe to sit down anywhere, had to keep moving, keep moving, until morning, when I could lie down in the park and catch a nap in relative safety.
Not safe to go to a house with a bunch of people having a party: recipe for rape. “Just don’t make any noise and you won’t get hurt,” hissed in my ear by some oaf who had planted himself on top of me while I was dozing. After a few of those, I learned to steer clear of the party crowd.
Yeah. So now, forty years later, I still don’t have a home. And every time I pack I get flashback upon flashback upon flashback, and nothing helps.
I have to get back to packing now. My friend is coming to help me haul my bags the two blocks to his house. At least now I have more than a change of underwear and a toothbrush. Lots and lots of baggage.