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When you're homeless and only have one thing to wait for, you wait forever.


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.

Weekend Drag

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.

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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.

Game Face

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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

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.