The day I had to leave that motel, I had no money at all. It was clear that I would have to live for a while outdoors. My main problem was not the fact that I had no money to eat and no place to sleep, but the fact that I had two bags, one large and one moderate, filled with various items collected over the past six years, when I first left my house.
I suddenly imagined that I would have to sleep at night for a while on different benches and that it would be hard for me to move with all my luggage from one place to another. As a result, I appealed to the goodwill of an older acquaintance about leaving my luggage in her shed; sadly, she refused to let me to sleep there too.
When I left my bags in that shed, I was really happy, that my happiness comes quickly and stays long, even though sometimes it comes out of me wonder what. In my luggage I had a book of poems by Pushkin (I like this poet, and I admit that he wrote better than I.), a few documents, and an expired passport to which had been added over the years a sealed memory steak. Also in the luggage, I had put my books, accompanied by a few dozen poems and essays. My happiness was that there, in that shed, because I had found shelter for my books.
Lacking luggage now, I became particularly cheerful that day. BecauseI was free, I meant the territory I was going to live in. Near the house where I had lived, there was a park that I had dreamed of many times in the 21 months that I had been locked in my family room in the country. Next to a children’s playground, I found two benches, which were friendly with me. It was a place I’d recently dreamed of being with one of my children.
For the first night of outdoor sleeping, I had found my place to live. However, I continued to explore, with interest, other places to sleep. Near the mall, around the house where I had lived, there was a place where, in August, children bath in the warm, artificial jets from a few vents in the ground. There I discovered that it could sometimes stay dark at night, but not too much, because there was a lot of light and I would have been seen by people. Also, the place was very bad, for the same reason, for urinating.
The first night of such freedom was not very favorable to sleep. The temperature at night is lower outside than in a house. So, I wouldn’t get cold, I took the cardboard from a box and shoved it under my hoodie. I’d also used cardboard in previous years to warm myself up, but I’d only put cardboard boxes from packaging in my boots.
Another impediment to outdoor sleeping came from the position I was in when trying to fall asleep. If I lay on the bench, I’d be able to be seen and be labeled as homeless, which, I have to admit, I didn’t want to accept that I was. As a result, I decided that sleeping should be carried out in a seated position, with my head on a corded bag, which acted as a pillow and helped warm my legs. I have a sensitivity to cold on the posterior part of my legs.
After a few hours of sitting on the bench with my head on my bag, I found that I hadn’t fallen asleep yet. As a result, I took my bag and moved to another park. On the way, I got sleepier. So, I thought, I’d fall asleep quickly. Surprisingly, I didn't sleep there either. But, when I tried to get up, I realized that it was still good and restful to stay there on the bench, with my head on my bag.
Towards morning, I discovered that the sun looks different from outside compared to inside the house, when you wake up. First, there appeared a star on the horizon, that looked bright. Then, the sky sent to the Earth more and more light. Over the clouds, red spots appear, to show that the earth is still turning.
I was in a hurry to get into the nearby shopping mall, so I took my bag and I went in front of that mall, which is only a few hundred meters from the park. There, at a self-service grocery store, several staff started to work around. Acting friendly, I sat in front of the store, where I waited until the sun began to leave shorter shadows on the ground.
Inside the mall, the space was very nice. Besides the grocery store, which had an entrance inside the mall, as well as outside, there was a small car-shapped kiddie ride, that I had put my younger son on when I’d still had a family. That small car was an object that made me remember intensely, so I liked to pass by it.
In the mall, next to a few other stores, there was also a branch of the London Public Library, which was the local library. I don’t want to talk about it too much yet, but it must be the most beautiful place in the world.
In front of the library was smiling a dentist office. Because I’m a good man, people, especially children, say hello to me. That day, as in the following days, because I had already made their acquaintance, the dental personnel, be they doctors or assistants, I did not know which, welcomed me nicely and moved on.
At nine o’clock, one of the library workers opened the front door that opens into a hallway, which leads
to the large, main room of the library, and along which are restrooms for ladies, gentlemen and families.
In that library, as in the other 16 branches in this city, there are many books, placed on their shelves.
Besides the books are people who browse books, and children, who hold on to their parents. On other
shelves are music CDs and movie DVDs.
Next to one of the glass walls of the library are two armchairs, where, that day, two old gentlemen
browsed the newspapers of the day. At the entrance was also an office, where the library staff offered
their welcome smile.
Part of the library was used fora children’s game, near, bookshelves for children who could read. Next to
the shelves were several benches with tables and chairs.
Since I hadn’t slept enough, the library became a kind of house, in which I warmed myself with the souls
of those who scoured the souls of the books. On one of the tables, my head, leaning against mine, was
trying a kind of conscious sleep, as I had during the night.
That day I had a mission to return to the acquaintance with whom I had left my luggage and ask her to
offer me something to eat, which she did.
Life in the library was beautiful at one point, but at nine o’clock in the evening it was time to close, and I
was made homeless again.
During the second day of sitting outdoors, I wondered whether I was, or not, homeless? Later, I remembered that in one of my books I had written about two Romanian bushmen, who the translator had inscribed as homeless. But that day I didn’t tell myself I was homeless, because the term embarrassed me. Later, on a Sunday, when the library was closed, behind a fence and a bush, I found a piece of cardboard to sit on. Then I guess I’ve got some kind of bushman special.
In Canada, the libraries are very beautiful, as I said. Their only problem is that they don’t stay open either over night or on the weekend. So, on Sundays, I have my favorite bush where I live.
I wasn’t picky about food, but my acquaintance didn’t give me much to eat and no more than once a day, except for Tuesday when I received none, and I had to stay hungry.
My explorations took me to two other parks around there. The parks of Canada are impressively beautiful. People, like trees, greet you when you are walking past them. My problem was that in one of the parks, after a while, there were not people, but a lot of mosquitos. And, the other park had no benches.
After the first week of outdoor living, I discovered that the day was shrinking, and that it was already September. The next morning, shadows of people showed signs that autumn was near. I had to make a decision. On one of those beautiful days of freedom, in that library, I came across of a request to visit a family of friends in London. On my visit to those friends, I was advised to go in a homeless shelter.
It’s hard to know how much I slept in those 20 days of freedom, but for a while I was falling asleep on my feet, a sign that my body was adjusting on the go.
One day, when I was moving on a foundation of the evil, because it was Sunday, a gentleman gave me all the change he had with him. I refused to receive the money, but he left the amount on my foundation, even though I protested that it was my foundation. Despite leaving the money there, I’ve never been back there since.
In the first park, after a while, I started to attract people’s attention. One day, a gentleman came to my bench and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was homeless. He went home and brought me chicken wings and two cans of juice in a bag. I refused to take them, but he left them on my bench. I had to get out of there, too.
Another day, while I was standing on another foundation, a police car stopped, and a female police officer asked me if I had I.D.. I had, rightly, identification, but I had nowhere to stay. I was afraid I wasn’t wouldn’t be allowed to be homeless. Later, I found out that there were more people in the city in the same situation as me, and that other people felt sorry for people like us and didn’t tell us anything.
One day I slept on the branch of a tree, near the ground, by a river. It was a very nice experience. One night, it started raining and I took cover under the roof of the famous mall. On another night, I got caught in the rain in First Park, and I took shelter in the children’s playground, where I had to sit on my legs for part of the night.
That day was a Sunday. Because it seemed to me that it was already light in the east, I posted my body strategically in front of the mall, where, I tried to stand on both legs. At one point, I fell asleep and suddenly fell. I woke up scared on the floor. In my fall, my left elbow went into my ribs. For those who don’t know, the ribs hurt a lot if they are attacked.
I got up without breathing properly, and without being able to stand up correctly on my legs. At that moment, my mind processed the idea that I needed to go to a shelter. As soon as possible, using 20 bucks, which I’d saved, with the help of a cop, who gave me the address, and a cab, I ended up in a place of destiny.
The Bushman/Fara casa
In ziua in care am fost nevoit sa parasesc acel motel, nu mai aveam bani deloc. Era clar ca voi trai pentru o vreme in aer liber. Principala mea problema nu era faptul ca nu aveam bani de mincare si nici un loc de dormit, ci faptul ca aveam doua bagaje, unul mare si unul moderat de mare, umplute cu diverse lucruri, inca de vreo sase ani, care imi prisoseau.
Mi-am imaginat dintr-o data ca trebuie sa dorm noaptea pentru o vreme pe diferite banci si ca mi-ar fi fost greu sa ma mut cu tot cu bagaje dintr-un loc in altul. Ca urmare, am apelat la bunavointa unei cunostinte mai vechi, ca sa-mi primeasca bagajele in magazie, dupa ce in prealabil refuzase sa ma primeasca sa dorm eu in locul bagajelor acolo.
Cind am lasat bagajele in acea magazie am fost cu adevarat fericit, ca la mine fericirea vine repede si sta mult, chiar daca uneori apare din te miri ce. In bagaje aveam o carte de Puskin, mi-a placut acest poet, si am recunoscut ca scrie mai bine ca mine, citeva documente si un pasaport expirat la care se adaugase in timp un memory steak sigilat, in care imi pusesem cartile, insotite de citeva zeci de poezii si eseuri. Fericirea mea era ca acolo in acea magazie, unde gasisem adapost pentru cartile mele.
Lipsit de bagaje, am devenit veselut, asa un pic, pentru ziua aceea. Pentru ca eram liber, am insemnat teritoriul in care urma sa locuiesc. Linga casa unde locuisem era un parc, la care visasem de multe ori in cele 21 de luni cit statusem inchis in camera familiei mele de la tara. Linga un loc de joaca pentru copii, unde ajunsesem pina nu demult cu unul ditre copiii mei, am gasit doua banci, pe care le-am considerat deosebit de prietenoase.
Cum pentru prima noapte de dormit in aer liber imi gasisem locul, am explorat cu interes si alte posibile locuri de dormit. Linga mall-ul din apropierea casei unde locuisem era un loc in care in acel august inca se mai scaldau copiii in jeturile artificiale caldute de la citeva tisnitori din pamint. Acolo am desoperit ca se putea sta uneori nopatea, dar nu prea mult, ca era lumina multa si puteam fi vazut. In plus, locul era foarte urit de urinat, din aceleasi motive luminoase.
Prima noapte de astfel de libertate nu a fost foarte favorabila dormitului. Trebuie sa arat ca afara noaptea este mai frig decit in casa. Ca sa nu imi fie frig la corp, am luat cartonul de la o cutie si mi l-am bagat pe sub hanorac. Mai folosisem cartoane si in anii anteriori pentru a ma incalzi, dar pusesem cutii de carton de la ambalaje doar in bocanci.
Un alt impediment la dormitul in aer liber a fost din start pozitia de efectuare a somnului. Daca ma lungeam pe banca, se facea ca puteam sa fiu vazut si catalogat ca homeless, ceea ce trebuie sa admit ca nu vroiam sa recunosc ca eram. In consecinta, am hotarit ca dormitul sa fie efectuat in sezut, cu capul pe o geanta cu cordon, ce imi tinea loc si de perna si de caldura la picioare. Am uitat sa spun ca eu am o sensibilitate la frig in zona posterioara a picioarelor.
Dupa citeva ore de stat pe banca, cu capul pe geanta mea, am constatat ca inca nu adormisem. Ca urmare, mi-am luat geanta si m-am mutat in celalt parc. Pe drum mi s-a facut si mai somn, asa ca am crezut ca o sa dorm. Spre surprinderea mea, nici acolo nu am dormit deloc. Dar cind am incercat sa ma ridic in picioare, am realizat ca oboseala imi arata ca era totusi bine si odihnitor sa ramin acolo pe banca, cu capul pe geanta mea.
Spre dimineata, am descoperit ca soarele se arata altfel afara decit in casa, cind dormi. Mai intii apare o stea care arata mai luminoasa. Apoi cerul lasa pamintului mai multa lumina. Pentru ca, in cele din urma, peste nori, sa apara pete rosietice, care sa vesteasca ca pamintul inca se invirte.
Pentru ca eram grabit sa ajung in mall, spre ziua, mi-am luat geanta si am poposit in fata acelei cladiri,
care era la doar citeva sute de metri de parc. Acolo, la un magazin alimentar de tip autoservire, mai multi lucratori au inceput sa trebaluiasca prin preajma. Deasebit de prietenos, m-am asezat in fata magazinului, unde m-am tot miscat, pina ce soarele a inceput sa lase umbre lungi pe pamint.
In mall este foarte frumos. In afara de magazinul alimentar, care avea, si are, o intrare si prin mall, nu numai prin afara, se afla o masinuta, unde il pusesem pe fiul meu cel mic, cind inca mai aveam o familie. Acea masinuta era un obiect care ma facea sa am traire intensa, asa ca imi placea sa trec pe linga ea.
Tot in mall, pe linga alte citeva magazine, era, si inca mai este, o filiala a London Public Library, adica biblioteca locala, despre care nu vreau sa vorbesc inca prea mult, dar trebuie sa spun ca este cel mai frumos loc din lume.
In fata bibliotecii zimbea la trecatori un cabinet stamatologic. Pentru ca sunt un om bun, oamenii, mai ales copiii, ma saluta. In ziua aceea, ca si in zilele urmatoare, pentru ca devensem deja cunostinte, domnii stomatologi, fie ei doctori, fie asistenti, ca nu i-am stiut eu care cum erau, au salutat frumos si au trecut mai departe.
La ora noua fix, una dintre lucratoarele bibliotecii a deschis usa de la intrare ce dadea intr-un hol, care ducea la incaperea mare a bibliotecii, dupa ce te lasa sa vezi pe drum mai multe toalete pemtru doamne, pentru domni si pentru familii. In biblioteca aceea, ca si in celelalte 16 sucursale ale bibliotecii acestui oras, sunt multe carti, asezate in rafturile lor. Pe linga carti erau oameni, care rasfoiau cartile si prunci care se tineau scai de parinti. Pe alte rafturi erau CD-uri cu muzica si DVD-uri cu filme.
Pe linga unul dintre peretii din sticla ai bibliotecii se aflau doua fotolii, unde doi domni in virsta rasfoiau ziarele zilei. Tot la intrare se afla biroul la care personalul bibliotecii iti oferea zimbetul lor de bun venit. O parte din biblioteca avea loc de joaca pentru copii si rafturi pentru acei dinte prunci care stiau sa citeasca. Linga rafturi se aflau mai multe banci cu mese si scaune.
Cum nu dormisem deajuns, biblioteca devenise un fel de casa, in care ma incalzeam cu sufletul celor care rasfoiau sufletul cartilor. Pe una dintre mese, capul meu, rezemat de o mina, incerca un fel de somn constient, asa cum avusesem si in timpul noptii.
Peste zi, aveam misiunea sa ma duc la cunostinta la care lasasem bagajele si sa o rog sa-mi ofere ceva de mincare; si mi-a oferit.
Viata in biblioteca era frumoasa de la un moment dat, dar la ora noua seara se inchidea, iar eu deveneam iar fara casa.
A doua zi de stat in aer liber mi-am pus intrebarea daca sunt sau nu homeless? Mai tirziu mi-am amintit ca in cartea mea vorbisem despre doi boschetari romani, pe care traducatoarea i-a inscris in una din cartile mele ca homeless. Dar in ziua aceea nu mi-am spus ca as fi boschetar, pentru ca termenul ma jena. Mai tirziu, cind, intr-o duminca, atunci cind era inchis la biblioteca, pe dupa un gard si o tufa, mi-am gasit un carton pe care sa stau. Atunci cred ca am devenit un fel de bushman.
In Canada bibliotecile sunt tare frumoase, asa cum spuneam. Singura lor problema este ca nu tin deschis nici nopatea si nici in week-end. Asa ca, duminica aveam tufa mea preferata unde stateam.
In privinta mancarii, nu eram pretentios, dar cunostinta mea nu imi dadea multa mincare si nu mai mult de o data pe zi, cu exceptia zilei de marti, cind trebuia sa stau flamind.
Explorarile mele m-au dus si in alte doua parcuri, de prin prin imprejurimi. Parcurile din Canada sunt impresionant de frumoase. Oamenii, ca si copacii, te saluta cind treci pe linga ei. Problema mea era ca in unul dintre parcuri, dupa o vreme, nu mai erau oameni, ci tintari. Iar celalalt parc nu avea banci.
Dupa prima saptamina de stat in aer liber, am descoperit ca ziua se micsora, si ca era deja Septembrie. A doua zi, umbrele de dimineata ale oamenilor dadeau semne ca toamna este aproape. Trebuia sa iau o decizie, asa ca in una din zilele acelea superbe de libertate, in acea biblioteca, am dat peste adresa unei cunostinte din London. In vizita facuta la acei prieteni, am fost sfatuit sa ajung in shelter (adapost pentru oamenii fara casa).
Este greu de stiu cit am dormit in acele 20 de zile de libertate, dar de la o vreme atipeam in picioare, semn ca organismal meu se regla din mers. In una din zile, cind motaiam si eu pe o temelie din apropierea mallui, pentru ca era duminica, un domn m-a imbiat cu tot maruntisul pe care l-a avut la el. Am refuzat sa primesc bani, dar mi i-a lasat pe temelie, desi am protestat ca era temelia mea. De ciuda ca mi i-a lasat acolo, nu am mai stat acolo
In primul parc, dupa o vreme am inceput sa atrag atentia. Intr-o zi, un domn a venit la mine, pe banca, sim-a intrebat ce fac. I-am spus ca sunt homeless. S-a dus acasa si mi-a adus intr-o punga aripioare de pui si doua can-uri cu suc. Am refuzat sa le primesc, dar le-a lasat pe banca mea. Am fost nevoit sa plec si de acolo.
Intr-o alta zi, pe cind stateam pe o alta temelie, a oprit masina unei politiste, care m-a imtrebat daca am acte. Aveam, ce-i drept, si acte si adresa, dar ca nu aveam unde sa stau. M-am temut ca nu as fi avut voie sa fiu homeless. Am aflat ulterior ca in oras erau mai multi oameni din aceiasi categorie si ca celorlalti oameni li se facea mila de unii ca noi si nu ne spuneau nimic.
Int-o zi, am dormit pe tulpina lunginta, paralela cu pamintul a unui copac de linga un riu. A fost tare frumos acolo. Pe la o bucata din noapte, insa a inceput sa ploua si am fugit aproape de acoperisul acelui vestit mall. Intr-o alta noapte, m-a prins ploaia in primul parc si m-am adapostit sub acopoerisul locului de joaca pentru copii, unde am fost nevoit sa stau in picioara o parte din noapte.
In diminiata aceea era duminica. Pentru ca mi se paruse ca ar fi fost deja lumina la rasarit, m-am postatstrategic in fata mall-ului, unde am incercat sa stau pe ambele picioare. La un moment dat, insa, am adomit si am casut brusc. M-am trezit speriat pe jos. In caderea mea, cotul sting mi-a intrat adinc in coaste. Pentru cei care nu stiu, coastele dor tare daca le dai cu cotul.
M-am ridicat de pe jos, fara sa pot respira cum trebuie si fara sa ma pot vaita. In clipa aceea, mintea mea a procesat ideea ca trebuie sa merg in shelter (adapost pentru sarmani). Cum imi lasasem 20 de dolari deoparte, cu ajutorul unei politiste, care mi-a dat adresa, si a unui taxi, am ajuns intr-un loc al destinului.
Dar despre shelter poate o sa vorbesc altadata.
Born and educated in Romania, Ambrozie Lucaci is living in London, Canada, since 2003. The author, a former History teacher, wrote The Searching Time more than a decade ago. The book had a long journey until it was published.