VOICES FROM THE STREETS: How not to go missing

I was reading an article in the Boston Globe about a homeless man that the police found.  Well, actually, they found his legs first.  They had been severed from his body and were lying by a Connecticut train station.  From DNA testing they found out that the man’s name was Ray Roberson.

They’ve found what they think are his arms also.  Without hands.  They are going to run DNA tests and see if they are from the same man.  They haven’t found the rest of Ray Roberson yet but they are looking.  They put up a booking photo of Ray.  No one has yet reported him missing.

That’s what it’s like to be homeless.  When I was homeless I felt as if I disappeared, no one would look for me.  Why would they want to?  I was just a heroin addict living on the streets doing what I could to get the next fix.

I remember when I went down to Florida to live with my aging parents and they didn’t want me there but they were trying to help me out.  I had just gotten released from doing two years in the Worcester House of Correction.

I worked for six days at a Subway sandwich shop and then quit.  When I got my paycheck I borrowed my father’s car and went looking for some drugs.  I still had some weed but that never took me to where I wanted to go.

There was this guy hitch-hiking on Interstate 95 as I was driving to Fort Lauderdale to get some.  He looked like me, a little raggedy, with a beard and long hair and a motorcycle vest.  Of course he didn’t have a motorcycle.  He was a wanna-bike!

I lit him up and we smoked and talked and I decided to give him a lift to where he said he lived.  When we got to the house I went indoors with him.  The furniture looked like hell and the house was dirty and had about four bedrooms.

The guy and I chatted and I mentioned that I was Jewish.  That was when I got the vibration from him.

“Oh, wow,”, he said, “You’re a Jew!  My friends love Jews.  Just wait til’ they get home and we can all party together.”

I knew, deep in my gut, that there was no way I wanted to stay and wait for his friends.  No one says that they love Jews in that tone of voice, and was he grinning.

I stood up and said, “Well, it’s time for me to go.”

“No, no,” he said, “you’ve got to meet my friends.  We’ll have a good time.”

I felt sick.  It was time for me to leave and I stood up and started walking to the front door.  He stood in the front door and told me that I shouldn’t leave now.

I had just gotten out of prison where I did nothing but work out and run around the gym.  In my cell I read book after book after book.  From working out I was in pretty good shape and this guy didn’t look like he could handle me and I could tell he knew it.

I told him to get out of the doorway or I was going to move him out of the doorway.  He stepped aside, whining the whole time about what a good time I was going to miss.

I walked out to the car with him dragging at my heels and I told him to step back or I was going to waste him.  I stared into his eyes and he looked down.  I opened the door to my father’s car and cranked it up and peeled down the street.

Sometimes you learn to listen to that feeling within.  When that vibration tells you that you are in danger, heed it.  I imagine that if I had waited for his friends I might have been buried in his basement.  After all, they loved Jews.

People don’t say things like that unless they are filled with hatred.  Because I was staying with my parents, they would have missed me but that doesn’t mean I ever would have been found.

That’s how people disappear.  Look up how many people go missing each year.  The numbers might surprise you.

I was staying with my parents but it was getting close to me going back out on the street and I knew it.  I was a member of the class called ‘the hidden homeless.’  I was couch surfing, that’s all.

I could’ve disappeared at the drop of a hat.  At that time in my life I don’t know if anyone would have showed up at my funeral.  Things have changed and I stopped using drugs and the drugs stopped using me.  I actually have friends now, people who aren’t going to bury me in their basement.

Life is like that.  I’m drug-free and I like it.

Marc D. Goldfinger is a member of the board of directors of the Homeless Empowerment Project, which publishes Spare Change news. Formerly homeless, he serves as the paper's poetry editor.

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