It’s never been any secret that “legitimately” finding a place to live is all but impossible, regardless of which Western “civilization” one might happen to find himself trapped in. Particularly for the unemployed. Or rather, underemployed. Why do you think so many people throw in the towel and decide to become homeless? Okay, sure, no one “decides” to be. Society decides for them. By hemming people in, by making the parameters of “on-the-grid existence” so impossible that, sooner or later, something has to give. The “camel’s” (a.k.a. human’s) back has to break and they finally have to throw up their hoof-hands and say, “Fine, you win. I’ll take to the fuckin’ streets and probably have an easier time there.” And it’s not entirely untrue. There are many things about being a “societal throwaway” that can cause a rebirth as opposed to full-stop death (and yes, unless one lives in California, the elements can be quite difficult to contend with as a homeless person, so often leading to a premature demise).
Nathan was prepared for the latter at this point. That was what he decided after being looked upon like trash at the umpteenth shitty apartment in Paris he was taken to see. Even though it was the apartments themselves that were trash. For whatever reason, just because it was Paris, it seemed that among the many lacks in terms of amenities that would be deemed otherwise “requisite” in the United States was the presence of a carbon monoxide detector. Inexplicably, it just didn’t seem to be “a thing” ‘round these parts. What was, Nathan couldn’t help but notice as he got dragged from one obscure street to the next by various agents immobiliers (who were passing him around like the town whore), turned out to be homelessness. Sure, he had come from San Francisco (where the word “homeless” was outmoded and offensive), and was no stranger to “that scene” by now. But, by some foolish “white privilege logic,” he assumed that Paris would possess the fey, whimsical vibes of Amélie that might theoretically “disallow” the horrors of witnessing so many denizens “sans domicile.”
And yet, were the streets not more their home than any mere passerby infiltrating “the space” to get to their own dilapidated, always overpriced ramshackle? One that would likely not feature a carbon monoxide detector. A revelation to Nathan, who, though he was broke, felt he still deserved the right to be able to be forewarned of his imminent and all-but-assured death. Just as he would have been in California, with its strict laws about the implementation of carbon monoxide detectors in any single-family “dwelling,” including apartment rentals. Even so, Nathan had scoffed at the idea of staying in San Francisco for another second.
Thus, when he had saved up what he deemed to be “enough” money from his bartending job at The Wet Whistle, he decided it was perfectly acceptable to just abscond to Gay Pair-ee as he had always dreamed of doing. Plus, all the dick options in the Castro had dried (splooged?) out. He didn’t imagine that the French would or could actually make it equally as difficult—if not more so—to get an apartment. Especially since Nathan could not provide the three months’ worth of pay stubs they were looking for. He knew, of course, that he could try his luck on couch surfing or renting a room in some undesirable’s flat, but even those options were not without their travails. Indeed, he felt frequently discriminated against because he was so hopelessly American. No French (or British or German or Turkish or Spanish, etc.) person wanted that in their abode.
And so, Nathan decided it would be for “the best” to simply give up and, when his funds ran out at the end of the month and he was summarily kicked out of the long-term stay hotel he had been delighting in, make the streets his home—as so many others had. Yet he wondered if it was a bad omen that the French word for “street” was “rue”—as in rue the day… that he ever believed a lily-livered twat like himself could survive without a crib to cry in.
At the same time, he rationalized that living in an apartment without a carbon monoxide detector actually made the alleyways and boulevard corners of Paris appear somehow less hazardous. More inviting. To boot, the price was obviously unbeatable—so why not just try it?, he “reasoned.” Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long to unearth the fact that there was a hierarchical order to the homeless existence as well (or, rather, non-existence, by the laws of capitalism rendering anyone without money invisible). It wasn’t all utopia and the overpowering odor of urine. And as the “newbie” on any block he tried to insert himself in, he was treated like just as much trash as when the agents immobiliers were showing him all the apartments he could never qualify for. He wasn’t qualifying for any of the more desirable sidewalk milieus either, whether Rive Gauche or Rive Droite. The only difference between finding a place “on the level” versus as a “derelict” was that the “turf wars” of the streets were more straightforwardly brutal, as opposed to passive aggressively so—the way “polite” society had to be in order to keep up its pretense of civility.
In the end, Nathan had to admit both ways of life were fucked. Each with their distinct and unavoidable drawbacks. He capitulated to the “fewer cons” of “civility,” just as Gordon Comstock did in Keep the Aspidistra Flying. And like a sellout, Nathan opted to “go straight” again (an expression he could never get on board with). Granted, it took a while to convince someone to hire him during those long periods in between when he couldn’t finagle a decent shower. But finally, the Starbucks on Saint-Michel was a willing accomplice to his scheme: make enough money to return to the U.S. with his tail between his legs. Then, at least, his dick could rise up from between his groin again. For there was no sex to be had with the homeless people he orbited (on a side note: many “housed Parisians” did appear slightly homeless by “American Standards of Cleanliness”).
They were all shockingly stuck up about fucking, what with being more concerned about basic survival. But to Nathan, sex was part of basic survival. So, too, was a carbon monoxide detector, which his newest San Francisco apartment was compliantly outfitted with, the real estate agent assured him after he provided the necessary (forged) documents to secure his permanent place of residence. Indeed, Nathan could have sworn he heard it beeping in between the delighted orgasmic screams of the man he was penetrating on what was to be the first and last night he lived there…