I’m still waiting for someone to say something, but no one ever does. It’s been almost a month and my comings and goings seem to be no more than a ping on the radar of the people who work in the building for most of the week. Of course, I’m not trying to draw attention to myself, quite the opposite. I dress like the other women there, business casual, and try to rotate my sparse wardrobe as best I can.
When I first discovered the spot I now call my home, I was doubtful I would go unnoticed. After all, this was a busy campus, students, faculty administrators were all within a few feet of my makeshift home. Of course if they were to discover my little corner they would have no idea that someone was living there, I make it a priority to pack up everything and hide it in the ceiling tiles above my little landing.
Whatever your preconceived notions about the homeless are, I can say with almost 100% certainty that they are wrong. Each one of us is different, and while it’s easy and convenient to sweep us all into one or two subgroups, it is far from an accurate portrait of who we all are. We are individuals just like you. I used to have a ‘normal’ life, lived in a home with two roommates, worked at a decent job and paid my taxes.
Now I live in the stairwell of a major university. I bathe in the handicap stall of the women’s bathroom (or sneak into the pool at night but usually that’s too risky). I eat out of the garbage cans and dumpsters on campus, you’d be amazed at all the things students and faculty members throw away every day. I get many of my clothes from there too. Student groups are always giving away things by the student union and I can usually trade or get a few bucks for whatever they are hawking that day… all I have to do is sign a clipboard they thrust at me.
Being a chick in my mid-twenties has definitely made it easier to blend in here, who’s going to look at petite blonde girl and think she’s homeless? Even on the days I can’t get to a place to freshen up I just dress like a ‘poor college’ student and people assume I’m counterculture or part of some other group the ‘kids are in to’ at the moment. All of this suits me just fine.
The only kink in my lifestyle is the 3rd floor bathroom. This bathroom, which is located just outside one of the stairwell doors, is where I usually freshen up, take a cat bath or whatever grooming is needed. Lately though, I feel like I’ve been getting a few lingering stares from the matronly women who inhabit that floor and frequent that ladies’ room. I could be imagining it, but my instincts are usually right on things like this. Bummer, I really like that bathroom, it has a couch and always smells like cotton candy.
Knowing that I am and interloper is different than feeling like one. There is one woman in particular that I feel giving me the eye. Even when I’m in my most demur ‘work’ costume I have caught her looking me up from head to toe, almost like she had radar and could ‘see’ that I wasn’t supposed to be there. I try not to linger when I hear her coming, her click clack shuffle is easily recognizable as she lurches down the hall. There were two occasions where I have even pulled my feet up and hidden in one of the stalls until she had come and gone. Possessing that busy-body quality paired with a hall monitor mentality make this woman my worst nightmare in trying to remain inconspicuous.
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: There is a stairwell in my building that has attracted my attention as of late. Our building has three floors but one of the stairwells has four flights of stairs. The last flight to the top most assuredly leads out onto the roof but I have found myself wondering about the landing leading to that door. What a perfect place to escape. I’ve even considered taking my lunch up there and just sitting, hidden from the world. Out-of-the-way spots like this have always enthralled me, and to be honest, the idea of someone making that little space a home is not completely ridiculous.
TWO: In a recent effort to reduce my ever-expanding midsection, I have started doing little things to get me moving. Having a desk job may seem low-impact but sitting for 9 hours strait staring at a computer screen starts to actually hurt. Physically. One of the small changes I have implemented to get me up and moving is to take the stairs to the third floor Ladies Room whenever ahem… nature calls. Over the last several weeks I think the women on that floor have started to wonder who I was and where I was coming from. I know I’ve received more than few inquisitive glances. Funny how possessive we can be about ‘our territory’. I know I get the same way when I see someone walking down my hallway that I don’t recognize. Well, they can just get over it. I need the exercise and to be frank I despise peeing in the same bathroom as the students I advise. It’s just weird.
Love & Squirrels.