What Came First, the Insomnia or the Instability?
[music| the pattering of rain on a Tahoe roof at 4 a.m.]
Being homeless is weird.
I keep doing that thing where I wake up and have no idea where I am. A mental carnival ride, tilt-a-whirling into every new morning.
It’s been four days on the road now, brushing teeth in strange sinks and gazing into strange mirrors that bounce back a different reflection under the glare of strange lights. Have I looked like this all along?
I don’t quite yet miss my beachside home, but it hasn’t quite yet hit me that it’s a home that no longer exists.
That sensation of being on holiday, just a short jaunt in Tahoe, still prevails. (That’s where I am presently, by the way- the gorgeous southern bank of the nation’s largest alpine lake, sitting out a freezing rainstorm after coming up from a Moroccan-themed hotspring spa with the weather to match. In between was the 7,881-foot leap over a socked-in Sierra and sprint through Gardnerville and Stateline, Nevada before the zigzagging Kingsbury Grade and Carson Range swooped back down into sweet California. As for tomorrow, we might have to flee into Nevada or Napa for drier and flatter grounds. A snowstorm is coming, and icy slopes are no place for a Prius.)
That it’s all been on U.S. soil and all happened so quickly has helped keep the illusion of vacation alive. But every now and then the thought catches back up with me: I am completely untethered.
It perhaps rang out most strongly from my door jamb, the second I shut it behind me on an empty apartment. I felt instantly different. Dirty, somehow, and wide-open.
In that strange limbo between scrubbing all sign of me from those walls and putting them in my rearview, I wandered the streets of Ocean Beach, just another Traveler, the nom préféré of the intentionally homeless there.
I had accommodation arranged that night at the home of some dear friends, but it was very early, 6 a.m., and that invitation didn’t kick in til evening.
Where to go? What to do? Somehow, the lack of place to belong had stretched out the yawning chasm of time. Counting dollars and cents toward the small café bites that buy access to clean bathrooms only ate up a small part of it.
And even as a paying customer, I somehow felt strangely exposed. Did the workers know I had nowhere else to go? How much I needed them? How much depended on that third refill of tea?
I couldn’t, and can’t, imagine what life is like for those who must eternally fill up that void, no pre-arranged roof to sit under, no matter how many hours of forced public exposure spread out in between.
And that’s the rub of it, I think. Not the lack of a physical dwelling per se but the abject lack of privacy, of the time and space to devolve into sweaty primordial ooze, revel in all the ugly passtimes of the unwatched, tear open the sealed corners of id free of judgement. A place to leave those messy truths behind while you don the smiles and courtesies of society. Keeping up appearances sounds exhausting for a reason.
The Travelers must be reminded of this every time they’re called crazy for exposing the world to all their queer tendencies. The same ones the rest of us conceal so neatly inside of our boxes.
A backpack is no match for a house, leaving hardly any room to carry around personal secrets, and all of this strikes me every now and then, as I gaze into yet another new mirror with differently tempered glass and wonder how many more new reflections of myself will be returned along this journey.