“Can anyone imagine what it’s like to be homeless?” a turkey plump man in a wheelchair shouts to anyone and no one as a small stream of people passes by. I feel the urge to punch him in the gut and then the face. Not because he disgusts me anymore than the average person, but because I despise this notion that people like him “get ahead” in the vagabond game by broadcasting their state of placelessness to the world in such a manner in exchange for the alms that hardly seem worth the loss of dignity. Death before (increasing) loss of dignity is fast becoming my mantra as I myself spiral down the track that will lead me to a quicker demise than the average cud-chewing human.
Some would argue this downfall was of my own making, that there were so many ways I could have prevented it. But how? I would ask them all. Did I not apply for all the jobs? Exhaust every possible couch option to the point of exhibiting a total lack of decorum? Yes, I had. It was all one inevitable kaboom after the long fizzle of the wick on the bomb of my life that had been waiting–yearning–to explode. So yes, to answer the turkey plump man’s question, I can imagine what it’s like to be homeless, because I am. Always have been, always will be. It was, however, precisely because of my homelessness that I could still afford things. Like a faux decadent prix fixe Thanksgiving dinner. The prix fixe being a “mere” $150. It seemed a small price to pay to announce my loneliness and isolation to the small world that remained behind in New York for the holiday–the one apart from the strange breed that was actually from New York. It was a different type of chipping away at dignity than what the turkey plump man was doing, his body shape in my midst being, incidentally, so well-timed for Turkey Day–a tradition increasingly as meaningless as the presidency. What was America celebrating, really? Could they tell anymore? Did they have anything to be thankful for? Other than a nation of turkey plump bodies with senses perpetually dulled from some invisible and perpetual dose of tryptophan being injected into their brains. For that must be the only explanation for this according lack of awareness.
Well, then, let me get drunk on the numbing effect of tryptophan in honor of a feast that pays homage to frivolous American excess at its finest. Maybe I would stick my head into the carcass while I was at it (in a far less plucky way than Monica Geller). But wait, what was I thinking? The turkey already came pre-cut and pre-arranged. No sign of any brutality or foul play (for it was foul play to take an animal by surprise and decimate it in its prime). With it in this nice, “neat” incarnation, I couldn’t make any more of a “statement” about it than the type of people who posted empty rants on social media about something ostensibly clear that ultimately meant nothing.
The image of that homeless man lingered in my mind as I hurried down the street to get to my solo dinner in time. It was a last supper, of sorts, in that it would be the final one I could afford for a while. I wanted to make it count even though when I said “faux decadent” earlier it was in reference to the fact that all restaurant-based Thanksgiving dinners are invariably lacking no matter how much you pay for them. I don’t want to give in to the maudlin notion that it has something to do with the impersonalness, the lack of love put into it, but there, I clearly have. This is why all of the staples of the Thanksgiving menu, no matter what bourgeois New York spin gets put upon them, will invariably offer some strange tinge of rubberiness to it. For it is the rubberiness of apathy that courses through the veins of so many New York enterprises anymore.
The name of the restaurant was, expectedly, Coeur, in the West Village. Therefore, gathered around me as my unwitting dining companions were either older gay gentlemen who had been in a domestic partnership for decades and still didn’t want to go home to either one’s parents or slightly younger gay gentlemen with their adopted spawn, all practically mute from the magical pedigree of attending a $60,000 a year primary school on the Upper East Side. It made for an utterly farcical scene. Something Buñuel would have appreciated, I have no doubt. Or at least Freddie Mercury. In fact, it was Queen I was listening to very deliberately after allowing myself to be subjected to the homeless man and his infection of my ears. I should know better than to ever brave the streets without headphones; it’s just asking to become a misanthrope if you aren’t already. It was “Mustapha” I wanted to hear, for it always infused me with a strange sense of calm–maybe because Mercury was expressly stating, “Peace be upon you” in Arabic. Yet this time around, the song was not having its usual effect. I was still being chased by the words of the turkey plump man, vexed by his plebeian attempt to try to paint a portrait of what it might possibly be like to be without a room of one’s own.
The aggravation over this must have been misinterpreted by the waiter as some form of sadness over being “alone” on Thanksgiving, which is why he foolishly chose to open his serving presentation with, “You couldn’t find anyone to join you on this lovely evening?”
“What are you talking about? I demanded, starting to fuck with him. “Clayton is right here in front of you, don’t you see him? We’re newlyweds. This is our first Thanksgiving together and I didn’t feel ready to cook. I’m still honing my culinary skills.”
Jacques, his fake name I suspected, appeared very concerned, but also unwilling to risk losing the tip money from two prix fixe meals–whether one of them was for an imaginary customer or not–so he just went with it.
“Of course, and what can I get you both in terms of wine to start?”
So it was that I got him off my back about being alone on Thanksgiving in a public place, but it didn’t stop everyone else from side glancing at me with piteous stares. I hissed at some of the children when their parents weren’t looking and, oh, how it gave me great satisfaction, to embrace my “evilness” like some sort of villain in a comic book finally giving up on all notions of even pretending to be good.
Where would I go after this? I had to think carefully. There were a few people I knew out of town whose apartments I could easily break into without anyone ever being the wiser. A few people who still had just a smidgen of faith in me, that I might “get it together,” as though getting it together could only equate with surrendering to the tax man and living in a state just as poverty-stricken but with at least an address to call my own. Maybe they were right, maybe it was worth the surrender to the man for that coveted personal space, even more coveted in a town where perfect strangers felt comfortable pissing in front of you. I wouldn’t likely be around much longer to find out.
As I reached the pumpkin and apple pie (one slice of each) course of my bloviated meal, the decision was upon me to make. Would I continue on like this, find an apartment to literally crash in until I figured out the next thing, and the next, from night to night, day to day–or would I surrender to a different man altogether? No, not god, you idiot. The reaper. He seemed to have such an inviting bed for me to lie in all the time, as long as I wanted. Forever.
“Many blessings to you this Thanksgiving,” the plump turkey man called out to me–or maybe to some unseen phantasm who would listen–as I walked back somewhat drunk from my carafe of wine that came included in the prix fixe. He was still hoping to milk some cash out of somebody by preying on their requisite holiday good will. So I started to pull out the last bill in my wallet, a ten, much to his fat-faced delight. And right when he thought I was going to hand it to him, I ripped it up with choreographed bombast. If he hadn’t learned his lesson about the cruelty and injustice of the world yet, then maybe it was my good Thanksgiving deed to fully impart that wisdom to him. And now, in keeping with the symmetry that existence so luxuriates in enforcing, we were both standing in front of one another with the same number of dollars to our name. Yet he was the “poor” one, and I just a pathetic bitch for being alone on Thanksgiving.