Weekends Suck Now

This post is a bit late. I spent all day thinking about it, but the one chance I had to post, I forgot. I’m kind of sick the past couple days. But then as I resigned myself to leaving it until tomorrow, a friend asked us to spend New Years with him. So it’s not quite as sucky as it was.

Weekends are bad because nothing happens on the weekends. Our schedule is library as soon as it opens, lunch in the library parking lot, then hit the gym around four or five and spend the rest of the day there. But weekends throw a monkey wrench in everything.

First the library doesn’t open until noon, so we have to find some other means of keeping busy. Mostly, we spend the morning at the gym and try to cook some food, maybe do some laundry. McDonald’s doesn’t allow us to use the internet for more than 30 minutes, so we can’t work there. Panera Bread lets us stay as long as we need, but their internet isn’t fast enough to run the transcription software. Plus, it starts getting busy before we even get there for the day, so it’s frequently too loud and unpleasant.

Sundays are even worse. We don’t have the gym at all, so we mostly end up driving around aimlessly or sitting somewhere and watching Netflix and YouTube on my tiny iPhone screen.

When homeless, boredom is the mind killer. Don’t have a job? Panhandle or dig through the trash for bottles and cans. You’ll soon have enough to at least buy a breakfast burrito or a candy bar. But then what? You’re sitting around staring into outer space, trying desperately to entertain yourself. Before long, you’re drinking and doing drugs just to pass the time.

If you’re thinking/worried of becoming homeless, this should definitely be something you think about. Not just what are you going to do with yourself, but what will you do on the weekend.

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Sleeping in a Car

This is probably the worst part of car dwelling for me. We have relatively safe parking, but that doesn’t make it judgment free. No less than ten people walked by our car this morning. Five of them stared in at us. And that was just the ones who passed by while I was awake.

There’s no privacy in a car. Anyone walking by can look in and see you. And they will because humans are curious creatures who want to see what that is. And when they see that it’s two people sleeping in the front seat of a car, the assumptions start.

I’ve mentioned getting hassled by the cops before. This is why. We’d try parking in residential areas. The owner would look out and see two people sleeping in a car and call the cops to “perform a wellfair check.” (Lol, pretending cops are here to help.)

We never slept in the same place twice, but it just started happening every day anyway, every time we dared venture out of the gym parking lot. One time, we hadn’t even slept there. We’d been sitting there for an hour while we waited for the library to open.

We, as a society, like to pretend there’s no homeless problem. We especially don’t like to think about what we might have done to contribute to it. So when folk see the two of us sleeping outside, they react with alarm and disgust. We have to be lazy or evil, we have to be getting what we deserve, because otherwise, we live in a society where even a polite young white couple can’t get help.

But at the same time, we also have to be victims. We’re not allowed to be OK sleeping in a parking lot. We’re homeless! We have to be beaten down by life and probably broke and on drugs! Because that makes sense, right? People with no money buying drugs?

Fun fact: it’s actually possible to make a pretty good living while homeless, and I’m not talking about begging. Kate and I are freelance transcription editors. As long as the library is open, we can make between $500 and $1500 a month. And without rent eating into that amount, we’ll be able to put most of it away into savings for an RV, or maybe even a real home.

The point is, homed folks, next time you wake up to see some people sleeping in front of your house, just leave them alone. They’ll be gone in another hour or so anyway. If you really care about helping and not just getting rid of them, leave some breakfast on the hood of their or slip some money under windshield wiper. Calling the cops just makes their day worse.

Spoke to the Psuedo-In-Laws Today

After being literally chased out of the house on Christmas, we left a bunch of our stuff behind. Today, I went to pick it up. I expected Kate’s mom to be there. I did not expect her dad.

If you’ve ever seen abuse depicted on TV, it’s usually between a husband and wife. The husband does something deplorable, and then, either immediately or later, he apologizes. The wife, clearly unhappy and beaten down by all this, accepts. They continue to live together even though he’s probably going kill her soon.

It’s…maybe a little overblown for drama’s sake, but it’s not a fabrication. This is actually how abusers work. First, they prepare you for this life by pretending to be normal people. They slowly ramp up the tension until you’re constantly on edge and don’t really know why; sometimes, you don’t even notice you’re on edge because it crept up so slowly.

Next, as they grow comfortable with you, they stop mediating their behavior. Soon enough, you’ve become a safe target for them, and they explode at you. Maybe you dropped a plate or closed a door too loud. It doesn’t really matter what you did because it’s not about you, but they’ll make damn sure you think it is by zeroing in on that dropped plate or shut door.

Once they see that you’ve not only been sufficiently cowed but are punishing yourself, then they apologize, they had a hard day, they don’t mean to yell, but you’ve really gotta stop doing those things. See, there’s no such thing as an accident to the abuser. Everything that happens is done deliberately to spite them.

Anyway, I bring all this up because when I walked into the house today, I noticed he stood up and half followed me and was just standing there waiting for me. As I carried a load outside, he put on his most apologetic voice and asked me to let him know how we were doing.

At first, I told him I didn’t know. I didn’t really have an answer for him. We’re living in a car. It’s primarily his fault, him and Kate’s mom. But we’re fine. We don’t want their pity or their meddling. So I said I didn’t know and kept moving stuff.

But while I was going in and out, Kate’s mom started laying into him, blaming him for this situation. I didn’t hear most of what she said, but while I was on the last load, she mentioned about she always smooths things over, and then he goes and ruins them again. So I said, no, you have never smoothed things over. I told her that what she was doing was called gaslighting. And then I turned to Kate’s dad and told him straight up that we were living in a car because he couldn’t accept that this was life and that we were doing the best we can to manage Kate’s condition.

He tried to beg me to stop and discuss this, but there’s nothing left to discuss. Unless they both go into therapy, we’re never speaking to them again. Or at least, not until we have a place to live and can finish picking up all our inessentials.

But I’m proud of myself. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to say something like that. Even a few weeks ago, I’m not sure I would have been so blunt. My need to protect Kate from them has been bolstering my confidence, but getting out of that house was some kind of catalyst. I was shaking like a leaf, but I still felt strong.

But You Can’t Live in a Car!

Kate and I hear this all the time. Over half a million people live on the streets, some of them for almost their whole lives. Most of them don’t have cars. They’re lucky if they have tents. But for some reason, we can’t live inside a portable heat source?

OK, so here’s my belief. It’s all down to privilege. See, just a few short weeks ago, I didn’t think I could live in a car either. I expected we’d spend part of a night, get cold, and then go crawling back to our abusers. But we didn’t. Aside from my lower legs being swollen from the car seat, we were fine. The hardest problem we’ve had to solve is where and how to cook for ourselves. (Most places don’t look too kindly on someone plugging in a hotplate, and it’s been too cold to feasibly break out the grill.)

Most of the time, when people look at us, they see a couple of kids running away from home. And even when they support us in that decision, they seem to think they need to take on the responsibility of saving us from our choices. I recently lost a good friend because, instead of listening to us and trusting us, he spent all day trying to find homeless resources for us, retreading ground we’d already considered and discarded, just to avoid facing the fact that there was nothing he could do. His pestering got so stressful that I finally asked him to stop. He blocked me on Facebook and hasn’t spoken to me since.

The fact of the matter is, you can live in a car. It’s hard. It’s often unfun. But you can do it as long as you can find a safe place to sleep and make sure to keep warm during the winter. Make sure you have a place to shower. And if your local supermarket has one of those free membership card things that gets you deals and coupons, sign up for that shit. Our place is having a sale on 10 for $10 maltomeal. And these aren’t little bags. These are average size for a box of cereal bags. I’ve gotten five meals out of a single bag so far, and that’s with snacking mindlessly. If I wanted to ration myself, I could probably get even more.

Also, when taking advantage of these deals, try to remember that the store words things to separate you from your money. 10 for $10 really just means $1 each. You very, very seldom have to buy the suggested amount, so if you only have $8, just get eight bags. (Or six or seven if you’re in a state where sales tax on food is a thing.)

The important thing is don’t go off all half cocked. Plan in advance. Do research into homeless shelters and see if they might be more appropriate to your needs. Do research into being homeless to get some useful advice on making money and finding safe sleeping locations. And try to travel light.

Car Dwelling and the Gym

One thing I have learned over the past month is that it is vitally important to shower every day. I know that’s just basic good hygiene, but when you’re living in a car, you’re not getting ventilation to parts of your body that really need it. Like your groin area or, for women, under your breasts. Or if you’re fat like me, the backs of your knees and between stomach rolls. Or even just that spot where the waistband of your pants sits against your skin.

TL;DR – I’m currently fighting some sort of bacterial or possibly fungal infection because I figured if I’m not getting out of the car, then it’s not that big a deal if I smell.

No, the smell is the least of your problems, and that’s why it’s very important to have a place you can shower. Depending on where you live, you might be able to use truck stops or rest areas. I dunno. I live in a series of small towns that are so dense and close together that I honestly thought it was one big city for about a year.

Gym memberships are your best friend. Especially if you can find a 24-hour place. My gym isn’t, but Kate is so popular and awesome that our coach lets me piggyback on her membership and gave us permission to stay overnight on the couches there. We don’t, mostly because of the aforementioned seizure problems. Sound is a big trigger for her, and for some reason, the ambient noise of the gym sounds like people talking all night long. So we live in the parking lot where cops won’t bother us.

Probably too much to hope for some place like that, but you should definitely have a place to shower. And working out helps with those little kinks and aches that form when you sit in one position too long. Plus, it releases endorphins, which’ll help battle the depression you almost certainly have or are acquiring from boredom.

Homeless for the Holidays

It’s the day after Christmas, and my fiance’s father kicked us out last night. It’s not the first time, but it will be the last. We’ve been living in our car since Thanksgiving. He never even noticed we were gone.

My fiance has a weird neurological thing. At this point, we think maybe it’s seizures, but finding a doctor who will listen has been tough. The first one, five years ago, insisted it was myasthenia gravis despite all evidence to the contrary. He was like 90, stubborn, set in his ways. It finally ended when he sent us to a colleague of his. This new guy listened to Kate for about 15 minutes and said, nah, it’s definitely not myasthenia gravis. After that, we thought maybe it was celiac’s or allergies because cutting out certain foods made the situation better. Kate went a huge battery of tests, and every doctor we talked to just shrugged. The last one suggested alternative medicine since no one else had answers. We stopped bothering with them after that.

Kate has muscle spasms, usually. Sometimes, she can talk. Sometimes, she’s completely unresponsive. And sometimes, she starts running violently, uncontrollably, bashing into things and injuring herself. She needs to be left alone when these hit. And there is the crux of our problem. Her father is a bully: a dry drunk who refuses to accept that there’s nothing he can do. Even before the seizures started, he was abusive and controlling, but every time Kate has one of these running fits, he starts screaming at her to knock it off, or standing around staring at her, or he comes up after she’s finally collapsed and starts demanding to know why she did that. As though she does it on purpose.

Thanksgiving was the culmination of a lot of a things boiling over. See, Kate’s mom isn’t a whole lot better. Where her dad is a loud, brash, brutish ogre, her mom is a weasel, infantilizing her and undermining her confidence under the guise of helping and using her father as a boogeyman to keep her under control. Every holiday, Kate’s extended family comes to stay; the noise and stress of having so many people around while the two of us are confined to a 5×10 space that’s mostly taken up by a computer desk causes her to spend the whole three to five days seizing. Every holiday, we beg her parents to find another way, and her mom promises that it won’t happen again. And then every holiday, it happens again. So this Thanksgiving, we went to stay at a hotel and just kind of never went back.

It’s been rough. The first few nights were OK, but then people started calling the cops on us in the morning. And it’s cold and boring, so we started going back to the house some nights. At first, it was just a few minutes, just long enough to cook some food and get out. But then we started hanging out during the day, while her dad was gone. Use the internet for a bit. We tried to sleep there a couple times, but that turned out to be impossible; too noisy.

Kate decided we should spend Christmas with them. I don’t remember how this decision happened. I may have asked, though I can’t fathom why I would have now. (ETA: I’ve just been informed that it was to cash in on that sweet, sweet Christmas money.) But she seemed pretty excited for it. Especially when we mentioned it to them and found out that no one else was coming this time. Her parents were settling in for a lonely, miserable day, and finding out that we were excited for Christmas seemed to brighten their day.

For about 24 hours, we were their golden children, and the house was filled with Christmas spirit. Then dinner was completed, the guests left, and they didn’t need us anymore. I was cooking up dinner for Kate (she can’t eat the same food as everyone else without risking seizures), and then we were leaving. And all she wanted was for her dad to turn the TV down because she felt a seizure coming on. He did. For about 10 seconds. Then he turned it up louder than before. So now, not only is she seizing, his blatant disregard for her needs has pretty much ensured its one of the violent running kinds. And as the cheery on top, as I finally got her into the car to leave, he came running out of the house to tell us to never come back.

He does that sometimes. He kicks us out about once a month or so. But never again.