a state of mental abandon that leaves you in poor physical condition through lack of desire and care.
New York, circa 2014, attributed to the Pendant Sisters
I was first introduced to the term bummed out by the Pendant Sisters — not their actual name and though I’m sure they’ll never read this blog, it’s not my desire to put their information on blast — while I was still new to the streets.
The sisters, we’ll call them Sally and Susan, were step-siblings, same mother, different fathers, separated at an early age, who were miraculously reunited on the streets after each had become homeless under different circumstances. I can’t remember how the ice was broken between us but they were the first people who showed me any real kindness, as homeless people tend to either isolate themselves or pair off into cliques within the displaced peoples caste system. It’s not hard to understand why they’re not an arms open wide type of community.
Sally and Susan hipped me to the best soup kitchens in which to get a decent meal on each particular day as well as the prime spots for things like clean public restrooms, free wifi, and places to charge your phone without making a purchase.
They’re what I call arm’s length friendly and I totally understand their caution and apprehension. They are two women having to survive in a city full of sadistic and insane people and I, despite seeming nice, am a still man and a relative stranger to them. As tough as it is simply being homeless, I can only imagine it’s ten times harder to be a homeless woman.
Anyway, one day I was palling around with them as they patiently showed me various no hassle locations (places where cops tend not to roust you for loitering, or being vagrant without a license), their faces dropped when their eyes fell on a man splayed out across a sidewalk bench. Nearly unrecognizable as human under all the layers of caked on filth, you couldn’t come close to calling what he wore clothes. They were tattered bits of ratty cloth held together in places by safety pins. His shoes were little more than cut up sections of newspaper secured around his feet by a series of rubberbands. When they tried to speak to him to see if he was okay, he responded with gibberish.
They were bummed out to see him bummed out.
As we walked away, they told me his back story. He was once an engineer who earned his degree at MIT and owned a successful business for a number of years. Then he stumbled upon a bit of hard luck when he lost several important contracts that bankrupted his business and his marriage of over twenty years ended in a divorce that wiped him clean.
When they first met him, he was a good natured and intelligent man, optimistic about getting back on his feet. They were truly shocked to see him in his current state, which got me to thinking about how homelessness can get inside your brain and make you abandon all hope and allow you to slide further and further away from being a functional member of society.
A truly frightening thought and I wonder just how far away I am from my breaking point, and what will be the final straw that collapses my resolve and causes me to bum out?
Until next time, I sincerely hope I don’t see you on the breadline.