A Squatter's Tale
It was cold. We kept marching, my partner and I, through the December streets. The winter sky daunting us, seemingly motionless, as we continued our journey through this nightmare of sensory affliction.
It was cold. But it wasn't just cold. It was fucking cold. Feeling had departed from my fingers, my hands, my arms, my legs, my feet, my face. The only part of my that was warm was the only part that seemed never to catch coldness: my stomach. And when I had an itch to scratch there, I reached to do what I had to do, and immediately ripped my arm out of my shirt - my fingers were so cold, so numb with frost, that to bring them to my stomach was to stir the worst of pains.
"There's no way I'm ever fucking travelling to New England again, " she said.
We were a crew, a partnership. Squatters come like that. Where there's one, there's more. If you find one squatter, their partner won't be far. More often than not, their partner is also their lover. In our age of Materialism and Capitalism, some of us manage to search through the debris of human intellect, and find one person who drives us mad with passion. Time passes, and you no longer consider them a person, but you consider yourselves as one person. And with someone whose character is so powerful, why spend time working eight hours a day, just because slum lords demand such a high rent? Why live in a house when you can simply live in each other's company, for ever? Consequently, the lack of desire for a house coincided with our inability to work, and so we were homeless, squatting, living in abandoned buildings when we found them. These pairs, partnerships of the homeless, may be found wherever there are squatters. And when a single squatter has no partner, no travel comrade to make it through the dark nights with them, they often form a clique around a partnership of squatters.
My travel partner was Firefeet, but her real name was Lidia. She earned her “street name" from the fact that she can't stay in one place for more than a week. She would meet someone, disappear from town for a month, and then be back. One squatter called her Firefeet, and it stuck. That's how names were given: on an impulse, and they stuck forever.
I was known little more than Jesus. I once met another man who had the same name, but he was given it for a different reason than me: because he actually looked like the mythical god. The reason I received this name was because, at the sight of street Evangelists, I would demonstrate a form of sarcasm yet unseen in the history of mankind. “Oh, praise the lord, Jesus, you saved me!" kneeling down, and then perhaps making lewd comments, “God, my poka-doted *** needs your healing touch!" Since squatters lived on the streets, we know everything that can possibly go on on these streets: from picketers to annoying business salesmen, and we have to deal with it, all the time. We have no place to go. We are homeless. Though it would seem reasonable, we cannot go back to our squats during day time. There is an off limits rule for returning to your squat when there is still light out. Almost like an unspoken rule in the mind of every smart squatter, it exists becasue police officers will bust squats only during the day time. So, we are stuck in these cities, these bustling and booming places of industry, commerce, and politics, and in this huff-and-puff society, we still find ourselves the same place we were last night: in the arms of our loved one, with nothing but an unrelenting admiration of what things may come.
What is there to do that the poor may do? Those who are moneyless have but one venture: travel. So we hitch hiked, we walked, we trekked. Some days we would wake up, and wonder why we woke up in the state (or country) we did. Our blood warms, and slowly the memories of the previous night flow into our head. But none of that matters, because we fell asleep in the same exact place we slept last night: beside the one who drives us crazy. If we were the gods of this Universe, we would change nothing.
But this week, we were getting out of New England. I wish there were a way in literature for me to explain how cold it was, by saying how cold my thumb felt as I tried to catch a ride for me and my lover, but I couldn't - that is, I couldn't feel my thumb. There was no blood going through it, no life left in it, no muscle with enough energy to move. There comes a point in human communication where some things cannot be told. The nature of such pain denies them from being learned, disallows them from being taught. This plague of dissension infects one victim, and he may speak of it for the rest of his days, but nobody will ever understand. He is alone, he will aways be alone, he will die alone. Nobody but his own conscience will be able to offer a fair empathy. And so, in like fashion, Firefeet and I march through these snowy dunes of New England, heading south. In a way, no different than the birds who migrate. Just a bit slower and willing to take a ride.
"Hey, Jesus, " Firefeet said, “How much longer do you estimate till we catch a ride?"
"Well, it's about an eternity between cars coming by, " I said, “So, it should be any moment now. "
"It's fucking cold as shit, " she said, her arms clasped and folded, shivering, like my own.
"No, it's tropical, " I said, trying to be cheery, “This snow is nothing but hot, spring rain. "
"That would seem to almost make sense, " she said, struggling with her impeded breath, “It's the cold that burns on my face. "
"At least with every step we take, we're one step towards the south and one step towards warmth, " I said.
"There's only one part of me that's warm right now, " she said, “And it's the part where only you are allowed. "
I smiled into the faceless breach of the oncoming snow, and spoke, “Then let's get some friction going so we can both warm up!"
We marched, still, until Firefeet fell onto the snow. I turned to her and wrapped my arm over her shoulder. “What's wrong?" I said. She didn't respond. I tried to pull her up. “Come on, get up, girl, " I said.
She started to cry, holding her arms buried in her chest. “I can't, " she said, “I can't. . . I can't move. "
"No, " I disagreed, “We can make it through this. It's only just a few more steps before we're in that tropical weather again. It'll be so hot, you can see steam rising up and out of the pavement. You'll be praying for a snow storm. "
"I'm going to die, " she said with a dying effort, her voice struggling.
I leaned in closer to her. “You remember that night in Seattle, where the temperature dipped down below ten degrees, and we had no where to sleep and no blankets? Remember how we held each other in that alley way as we struggled to sleep, and you told me that we would be dead by morning, but we survived? Do you remember?"
"But now is not like then, " she said.
"Please, Firefeet, " I said, “Get up. "
"I can't, " she said again, still crying.
"Please, " I said, “I will do anything for you. Just get up. "
She sat there, unmoving, her body only shaking now and then because of the tears. I leaned in closer to her, kissed her on the ear, and said, “Don't die. . . We have but the rest of our lives to be with each other. "
And so, that night went on. . . Several hours past, and we were gone. I never left her side. And there was nothing but several three-worded phrases exchanged between us. The snow piled on, and we were only found next morning by the Connecticut Sheriff's Department.
In a very real way, we were already dead. We had been living the lives of ghosts, drifting aimlessly. But what we had, what we found in each other, though it was not enough to last an eternity, it was enough.
Punkerslut (or Andy Carloff) has been writing essays and poetry on social issues which have caught his attention for several years. His website http://www.punkerslut.com provides a complete list of all of these writings. His life experience includes homelessness, squating in New Orleans and LA, dropping out of high school, getting expelled from college for “subversive activities, " and a myriad of other revolutionary actions.