Broke and living on the street, a women contemplates her situation.
|I am broke. Surely you've heard the phrase repeated by friends and strangers alike. The meaning is clear, however variant the level may be. For some it is the broke that makes you choose between paying the heating bill or buying groceries. For others it is the decision to stay home Friday night rather than hanging out at the trendiest new night club with your friends. And for the lucky few, being broke is vacationing domestically rather than internationally. Throughout my life I have held different positions on this wicked scale but none as low as today's.|
I am broke. But I wasn't always. It was the early 90s and we were living in Lincoln Park, one of Chicago's hippest neighborhoods. This Saturday night, like most in December, was cold even with the full length mink and cashmere lined gloves. I still felt a chill while we walked back to my apartment laughing, playful and in a celebratory mood. The day could not have been better, I was featured in FAST COMPANY magazine and although my photo looked harsh, the article was stellar. This was the type of article that propelled a career and started the avalanche of success. We had just finished another extraordinary meal at CHARLIE TROTTERS Gold Coast restaurant, where our favorite waiter entertained us with fine wine suggestions and hysterical stories of other patrons. Leaving the restaurant, we decided to walk along the lake. I was distracted by my all encompassing self love and didn't notice the homeless woman until she spoke.
"Can you spare some change. I am cold and hungry". Her long hair was matted, her teeth few and her hands knobby. It was her hands that held my gaze in their fingerless gloves, shaking and blue.
"Sorry. I am broke" is how I responded as I turned back to my date and my conversation.
Now more than twenty years later, that phrase from my mouth comes from a different place. I am broke. The words taste like cold coffee, bitter and wrong on my lips. When uttered today, they are flat with no tone or emotion on the surface. Underneath those words are the emotions and feelings that could not be farther from self love. They are riddled with self loathing and anxiously waiting for judgment. My demons are shame and guilt and they are even be more painful than hunger and cold.
It has only been a few months since I lost it all, although the process started much earlier. It started when I caught my husband cheating. Explosive and obsessed, I focused on revenge. My only goal to make him feel the betrayal I had felt. That focus and plan took time, time that should have been spent on my company, time that should have been spent nurturing my relationships. The plan drained my bank account as well. By the time the divorce papers were finalized, I had lost my job, my friends, my savings. My need for retribution, my need to see him suffer destroyed everything I had and everything I was.
I am broke. The party invitations have been replaced by old newspaper to use as blankets. The jimmy Choos a distant memory now that I am thankful for those beaten but fleece lined boots I found in the trash on Fullerton and Clark. Every moment I walk I am struck with another loss. My gait defined by confidence, forging a path through any crowd is different now. True the crowds still part but it is because they need to be farther way from me and my misfortune.
I can't help but think that my situation is so much worse than my neighbors on the street. Is it harder to be broke after having so much? Maybe never knowing comfort is better than having it all taken aware and waking up daily to relive that loss and those memories. Does my stomach ache stronger and growl louder because I have tasted delicacies of the privileged? Do my fingers and toes freeze faster because they have not been weathered by years of cold? I don't really thing so. I think cold is cold and hunger is hunger. It's just my final attempts to prove I am different and do not deserve this fate.
Yes, I am broke.