On the Road

“Have you ever been made homeless?” I asked.

The waiter looked a little surprised, but how else could he have looked at that question? Just a moment before he’d been complaining about the gentleman stopped in the corner alcove of his restaurant’s entranceway, some down-on-his-luck sort of fellow who’d been gently entreating passersby for a spare bit of change.

“It’s a gut-wrenching sensation, the moment you become aware of the reality of your situation. It’s made worse if you’ve never taken the time to build up a contingency plan for such an event, like most people haven’t. Your whole framework of reality, that secure little picture you’ve been painting for however many years up to that point, is suddenly torn asunder. You’re set adrift without a life raft or hope of outside rescue and must now suddenly rely on your own wits and wherewithal to make your shelter for the evening.

“Some of us are fortunate enough to have friends to turn to. But even the staunchest of allies will grow weary of your presence after a while, especially if you’re going on their good graces and have no means of support. Many people who find themselves homeless have run out of road, you see. It’s often accompanied by joblessness and a certain lack of financial means. Well and truly fucked, if you’ll pardon my language.” The waiter was still looking at me through a plaster mask of impassive shock, so I pressed on. “You see, it’s a test of sorts. A test of resilience, and one that I pray you never face. It can go on for years, too. Some live out the rest of their lives in this condition, unable to ever recover from the soul-crushing shock and displacement from a society that once nurtured their dreams and hopes. Cast out. Made alien.”

A flicker of a smile touched the edges of the waiter’s lips, and then vanished as if he’d thought the better of it.

“Just something to consider,” I said, nodding at the fellow begging in the doorway. “The next time you wish to condescend or look down upon the unfortunate, it would serve you better to contemplate the road they’ve had to walk to get there. It’s the same road you or I or anyone else walks, just they’ve been pushed or veered into the ditch at the side of it and are looking for a way back up.

“I’ll take the cheque when you have a minute.”

2014.10.14 – 2023.06.05

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