The promised Friday night call doesn’t come by Saturday morning nor in the evening which eventually drifts into Sunday morning and still no a-tonal electronic yowl out of my cell phone. Now in mid-morning, the good and godly matrons of Toronto, each from a FOOF through their divine birth into a Fine Old Ontario Family, are filing into Anglican churches dressed like sofa’s at a funeral home, as someone once said to me and I wish I could remember who it was. The wait is likely to drift into another afternoon and maybe night.
The call I am waiting for is about a room to rent in a home. Friends had chipped in enough money to let me pay for it and my own food for a while.
I’d looked at dozens, or so it seemed, and this one would be perfect: When I looked at the place, I got along well with the couple who own the house, it is in a nice and safe residential neighbourhood, I could move in immediately, and they didn’t have a problem with my bringing Prince, my aging Golden Retriever. Right now, he is in one place, my stuff is in a second and I am in a third so we would be reunited, finally. When I’d finished looking at the place and talking with the couple Thursday night, I was promised a decision within a day and life finally seemed possible again.
On the subway returning to where I’d stayed on Thursday night, I had to suppress a smile from creasing my face because I was elated. Maybe the waking nightmare I’ve been living was ending.
That evening, I actually was able to concentrate enough to read for the first time in days: On a computer I borrowed for a few hours I dived into this website, a few blogs, the Paul Krugman column from Friday morning in the Times and Craig’s List for possible writing gigs. I returned to a book I had started a few days earlier but was too distracted to focus on so I’d only gotten through a few pages. When I showered before bed, I found myself humming an old Beach Boys song.
I’m not sure which is worse: Having nothing to look forward to during the day or waiting for something that would start to turn things around.
But when no call had come in by mid-afternoon on Saturday, my spirits began deflating and I started feeling exhausted again. Sitting on a sofa, I drifted into one of those half-awake, half-asleep dozes where the sound is cut off and you slip into a kind of semi-conscious reverie where the mind plays all kinds of tricks.
There it was, my fear of failure, which meant a failure to ingratiate myself; of being too late or too early, too clean or not clean enough, too loud, too quiet, too subservient, to cheeky. I remembered my early women, no different from my later ones, each a bigger disillusionment than the last as I struggled to elevate them to the divine status of the woman I never had.
Awake again, with a start and no idea of how long I was out. Was it a dream or something I’d read? If I read it, where? Who wrote it? It sounded like John Le Carre, but which book? Not the early movels or the Smiley trilogy, I knew that, but was it Constant Gardener or Perfect Spy or some other book entirely?
And why had it come to me now?
The images had rushed at me like a night train to nowhere because as the days became weeks and the weeks dragged into this weekend, I have had a lot of time to consider how I ended up here, my old life dissolving, disappearing, descending into a struggle just to find something to eat today and a place to sleep tonight and somewhere to live tomorrow.
Getting out of this desperate situation is the driving force, getting off the streets the overriding concern. When you have a lot, getting a little is easy; when you have nothing, getting out takes a herculean toll: Physically, emotionally, psychologically, financially, spiritually.
Despair is your enemy, hope is what you fight massively to hold onto.
You try to find a way to keep your game face intact. No one wants to be around a loser who looks like he knows it. How much longer to I have to be this strong?
Charley James is an American journalist and writer who lives in Toronto. His memoir, “There’s A Monkey In The Yard!” is due to be published next summer.