I Sleep With Homeless Men
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because the dictates of humanity are boundless.
By Charlotte Hoff
It was the summer from hell. I was disconnected from my family of origin for the first time ever, and I was as terrified as I was furious. I had put my father on a pedestal my whole life and now, because of terrible circumstances, he had fallen. How, why? Not important. Or not nearly as important as my isolation. And its causal connection to what happened after the blowup.
I left the house. I wandered downtown. I noticed a homeless drunk. I had seen him a few times before. Here in Scandinavia we call them “The A-Team.” As in “A” for alcoholic. They gather around the government-run alcohol outlet, buying beers and cracking them open on park benches. He was one of the handsome ones.
I used to stop. Maybe share a few jokes with them while doing errands, but he and I never made a connection. He was usually really drunk. I was not.
While I’m sure I’d have felt seen and heard by any dude at a bar, this was easier … which helps when you are a highly sensitive person (HSP) like me.
But the day of the blowup? I was drunk. I could not deal with the anxiety, waking up alone and the fact that my own body had been acting up. It all reminded me of my own pain-laced childhood. So, I popped open a bottle of chardonnay at noon, and I made my way downtown, sociably tipsy.
I ended up at the town square. There was a gang of drunks, most of them homeless, the same ones I would chat with once in a while. Well, we got to joking.
“Will you marry me?” one of them asked, and being in my 50s and having been married twice already, I politely laughed it off.
But the cutie pie was there too. He and I exchanged glances and sidled off toward one another. We ended up at my place.
Back at my place, we wound up making out. He stank.
I’d already been told his life story: His wife had left him, and I was the first woman he’d been with since then. So, I showed him some empathy and then I asked him to take a bath, or at least a shower.
He came out of the bath smelling like a rose. His golden locks were shoulder-length. He had a square jaw.
The sex was affectionate. Drunks are generally warm-hearted types. We fell asleep happily. The next morning, he went back out to the streets. I was glad to see him go.
Five days later, I got the heebie-jeebies again and went back downtown. I ended up at a pond, down by the river, in the city park.
I cracked open a beer and took a swig. Lit a cigarette. Breathed out.
I look to my left and about four yards away from me was Clint Eastwood. He looked exactly like a well-preserved Clint. My teenage crush, Clint was the man I lusted for right before I was deflowered.
“Hey, want a beer?” he asked me, flashing a smile. He straightened out his gangly legs and swept out his arm in an inviting gesture.
“Sure,” I said and smiled back, and then we were off joking.
Back at my place, he started playing boogie-woogie on my piano, crooning away like Frankie Blue Eyes. I sang along. His name was Robbie and we danced, sang, laughed and fucked that night.
The next morning, he was in love. I was not.
Why was I fucking homeless guys?
I have fucked plenty of drunks, but homeless drunks? Rare. But these two men drew me in with their eyes. Their souls spoke to me, and it was all about kindness and a desire to hear and be heard. I felt seen and heard by them.
While I’m sure I’d have felt seen and heard by any dude at a bar, this was easier, more natural (outdoorsy?), and with fewer people around, which helps when you are a highly sensitive person (HSP) like me. I had suffered a blow, and I was off-kilter, so my emotional compass was not in order, but I knew I needed love, and that was the closest to love I could get at the time.
Especially with Drunk No. 2, Robbie. He showed me love. Not only was he a skilled pianist, and had the pipes to back it up, but he had music running through his veins — the good old-fashioned kind. I am a sucker for music. When he spoke, it came out rhythmically — the rhythm of the music in my veins. It was poetic, signed with a huge heart. That, to me, was love.
Robbie kept coming around for years, even though we only fucked each other once.
“Yes, I’m in love with you. What do you think drew me here? It definitely wasn’t hate,” he used to say.
He slept on the couch when he came around after that. Which was every time he was drunk, because he’s not allowed back at the homeless shelter for the night when he’s drunk. Sometimes he brought a bottle of vermouth, which I appreciated. He offered liquor. I offered cigarettes.
These were good guys.
According to some social scientists, substance abuse is about the environment. And that’s true to a certain extent. Robbie sometimes talked about how he became homeless.
“Shame seeks out shame, addicts seek out addicts and so there were loud parties and neighbors complaining and eviction. In other words, it is self-inflicted. They have a house, a car, a job and then they drink too much on the weekends. Then it becomes a habit. Then you get fired. Why feel sorry for them? Still, living in a stairwell without money is not so good. But it’s all about getting your life back on track.”
I think of that every time I go downtown and see those guys at the liquor store.
- Charlotte Hoff, OZY Author Contact Charlotte Hoff