The more I thought about my meeting last week with the agency buying my plane ticket, the more it bothered me. It had been all the same questions asked at my very first meeting with them three weeks ago, “Why did you come to Brussels?”, “How long have you been here?”. But the question that bothered me most, “Where is your backpack?”. They were referring to the huge black hiking backpack I’d come to the office twice with, as if I was expected to carry it around all the time for some kind of show that I really was homeless.
“It’s hidden in the forest. It’s heavy.”
The fact that they would leave somebody waiting in the weeds for three weeks without telling them the whole truth is absurd and dangerous. Had they told me in the beginning that my case was not approved then I would have left, but they insisted it was a done deal, just a matter of waiting the mandatory three weeks then the ticket would be issued.
The more I thought about this the more I felt that my life and safety was being toyed with. Normally I would never stay in a city homeless this long without some kind of support network. Without Belgium ID, any help here has now been exhausted, even the meals I’d been getting last week.
After the meeting last Tuesday the agency had again insisted, “OK, no problem, we will send you an email today or tomorrow with your flight information”. Still having not heard back from them near the end of the week, I finally sent a message cancelling my request for ticket. Where would it have ended? I can’t stay here in the weeds without food while the agency has some kind of internal power struggle about whether or not to buy me a ticket. And I also don’t want to be the source of such a conflict.
I never walked into the agency expecting any help, to the contrary, I thought I’d ask just in case because someone else had made the appointment for me. One of the worst things that can be done to a homeless person is to offer them something great, keep them waiting, then never come through on the offer. Sarah and I have experienced this many times, which we call “Being kept in the yard”. And never did we ask for what was offered. If you want to give something away, then great, but you’ll end up doing more harm than good in relenting on the offer that someone is waiting on. No matter if you are homeless or rich, perceived wasted time is wasted time nonetheless.
Friday July 13th, 2012:
Steady rain keeps me from packing up camp till noon, held hostage underneath my battered blue tarp, inside a damp sleeping bag with wet edges. I’m going to start walking towards Paris today, via the GR12 trail that passes through Brussels on its way from Amsterdam.Yes I hate cities but I want to see Paris at least once.
The GR12 is supposedly right on the other side of this huge forest park I’ve been camped out in. The forest trails are full of deflated slugs, runover by bicycles, now the meals of their living slimy brethren who crowd around the bodies in mass. Imagine a motorist running over a pedestrian, then cyclists stop to cut up the body, strapping the bloody limbs onto their rear racks, “Oh my kids love leg meat”. The slugs are efficient, we are wasteful with our cemeteries.
The trail is nowhere to be found so I walk towards the E19 freeway that goes straight to Paris. It’s already six o’clock by the time I get to the on-ramp and I don’t want to have to find a campsite after dark, especially in Paris. I camp in the little wooded area between the freeway and the ramp.
Something screams down the roadway like a jet overnight, there and gone in an instant, likely traveling in excess of 200mph. Rain slickens the roadways. A drunk slides off the on-ramp and into the woods somewhere nearby, but somehow backs up and continues on. I eat the last of my chocolate covered waffles and bread, the last of what I’d bought with the last of my money from last week.
Saturday July 14th, 2012:
A break in the rain, looks like clearing skies. I hold a sign reading “Paris” by the onramp. The clouds rebuild as quickly as they had broken, with rain soon falling again, harder and harder. I’m soaked, my bag is filthy, nobody is going to stop here.
I wait under the freeway overpass in the one place where the cars can’t splash black muck. The rain just won’t stop. I recognize this area, the Carrefour Planet store where I bought glue for my shoes last week. There’s a tram stop near here. The university library should be open till 5pm.
An hour and two trams later, the library is closed. Only thing left to do is return to the campsite I left yesterday morning, same place I’ve been for three weeks. Laid back under the old blue tarp in the damp sleeping bag, I smoke my last hand-rolled cigarette and sleep the rest of the day away under constant rain showers.
I like the rain actually, and I like watching the slugs it brings, I just don’t like their slime trails all over my stuff. I’m the monster that sends them flying with a flick, but they keep coming back. The moment I sat something new on the ground they’re all over it, which is strange considering they move almost imperceptibly and they are never in sight until that something new hits the ground. They have a great appetite for paper, especially paper that’s glued on like product labels. They quickly eat the tax stamp off my empty package of Pall Mall rolling tobacco.
Sunday July 15th, 2012:
There is simply no reason to get up today. First of all I’ll get soaked in the constant rain, second of all there’s nowhere to go. The library is closed and it’s the only place to be for free where there’s actually something to do.
What am I going to do here? There’s none of those temporary under-the-table jobs that get me by in the US, at least not for me because I don’t speak French. Two people have offered plane tickets but I can’t accept because I know I’ll never pay them back. I’d rather starve than destroy the few relationships I have left in the world.
So what to do? I finally rise from my campsite at 4:30 during a break in the rain to send one final email to the agency that was supposed to be buying my plane ticket for the past three weeks. The gist of it is ‘what the hell is going on? can you help me or is this case simply so complicated for you that all progress will remain frozen forever? you don’t owe me a ticket but you do owe me the information I need to get on with my life‘. Well that’s not exactly what I say word-for-word, but that’s the idea. As expected, I get no response.
So I am semi-permanently into the foreseeable future a resident of Europe, but the question remains, what to do?