A Squatter's Tale
Jesus," Firefeet said, "How much longer do you estimate
till we catch a ride?"
was cold. We kept marching, my partner and I, through the December
streets. The winter sky daunting us, seemingly motionless, as we
continued our journey through this nightmare of sensory affliction.
It was cold. But it wasn't just cold. It was fucking cold. Feeling
had departed from my fingers, my hands, my arms, my legs, my feet, my
face. The only part of my that was warm was the only part that seemed
never to catch coldness: my stomach. And when I had an itch to scratch
there, my reached to do what I had to do, and immediately ripped my
out of my shirt -- my fingers were so cold, so numb with frost, that
bring them to my stomach was to stir the worst of pains.
"There's no way I'm ever fucking travelling to New England again,"
she said. We were a crew, a partnership. Squatters come like that. Where
there's one, there's more. If you find one squatter, their partner won't
be far. More often than not, their partner is also their lover. In our
age of Materialism and Capitalism, some of us manage to search through
the debris of human intellect, and find one person who drives us mad
with passion. Time passes, and you no longer consider them a person,
but you consider yourselves as one person. And with someone whose character
is so powerful, why spend time working eight hours a day, just because
slum lords demand such a high rent? Why live in a house when you can
simply live in each other's company, for ever?
Consequently, the lack of desire for a house coincided with our inability
to work, and so we were homeless, squatting, living in abandoned buildings
when we found them. These pairs, partnerships of the homeless, may be
found wherever there are squatters. And when a single squatter has no
partner, no travel comrade to make it through the dark nights with them,
they often form a clique around a partnership of squatters.
My travel partner was Firefeet, but her real name was Lidia. She earned
her "street name" from the fact that she can't stay in one
place for more than a week. She would meet someone, disappear from town
for a month, and then be back. One squatter called her Firefeet, and
it stuck. That's how names were given: on an impulse, and they stuck
forever. I was known little more than Jesus. I once met another man
who had the same name, but he was given it for a different reason than
me: because he actually looked like the mythical god. The reason I received
this name was because, at the sight of street Evangelists, I would demonstrate
a form of sarcasm yet unseen in the history of mankind. "Oh, praise
the lord, Jesus, you saved me!" kneeling down, and then perhaps
making lewd comments, "God, my poka-doted penis needs your healing
Since squatters lived on the streets, we know everything that can possibly
go on on these streets: from picketers to annoying business salesmen,
and we have to deal with it, all the time. We have no place to go. We
are homeless. Though it would seem reasonable, we cannot go back to
our squats during day time. There is an off limits rule for returning
to your squat when there is still light out. Almost like an unspoken
rule in the mind of every smart squatter, it exists becasue police officers
will bust squats only during the day time. So, we are stuck in these
cities, these bustling and booming places of industry, commerce, and
politics, and in this huff-and-puff society, we still find ourselves
the same place we were last night: in the arms of our loved one, with
nothing but an unrelenting admiration of what things may come.
What is there to do that the poor may do? Those who are moneyless
have but one venture: travel. So we hitch hiked, we walked, we trekked.
Some days we would wake up, and wonder why we woke up in the state (or
country) we did. Our blood warms, and slowly the memories of the
previous night flow into our head. But none of that matters, because
fell asleep in the same exact place we slept last night: beside the
who drives us crazy. If we were the gods of this Universe, we would
But this week, we were getting out of New England. I wish there were
a way in literature for me to explain how cold it was, by saying how
cold my thumb felt as I tried to catch a ride for me and my lover, but
I couldn't -- that is, I couldn't feel my thumb. There was no blood
going through it, no life left in it, no muscle with enough energy to
There comes a point in human communication where some things cannot
told. The nature of such pain denies them from being learned,
disallows them from being taught. This plague of dissension infects
victim, and he may speak of it for the rest of his days, but nobody
understand. He is alone, he will aways be alone, he will die alone.
Nobody but his own conscience will be able to offer a fair empathy.
so, in like fashion, Firefeet and I march through these snowy dunes
New England, heading south. In a way, no different than the birds who
migrate. Just a bit slower and willing to take a ride.
"Hey, Jesus," Firefeet said, "How much longer do you
estimate till we catch a ride?"
"Well, it's about an eternity between cars coming by," I said,
"So, it should be any moment now."
"It's fucking cold
as shit," she said, her arms clasped and folded, shivering, like
"No, it's tropical," I said, trying to be cheery, "This
snow is nothing but hot, spring rain."
"That would seem to almost make sense," she said, struggling
with her impeded breath, "It's the cold that burns on my face."
"At least with every step we take, we're one step towards the south
and one step towards warmth," I said.
"There's only one part of me that's warm right now," she said,
"And it's the part where only you are allowed."
I smiled into the faceless breach of the oncoming snow, and spoke, "Then
let's get some friction going so we can both warm up!"
We marched, still, until Firefeet fell onto the snow. I turned to her
and wrapped my arm over her shoulder. "What's wrong?" I said.
She didn't respond. I tried to pull her up. "Come on, get up, girl,"
She started to cry, holding her arms buried in her chest. "I can't,"
she said, "I can't... I can't move."
"No," I disagreed, "We can make it through this. It's
only just a few more steps before we're in that tropical weather again.
It'll be so hot, you can see steam rising up and out of the pavement.
You'll be praying for a snow storm."
"I'm going to die," she whisphered, her voice struggling.
I leaned in closer to her. "You remember that night in Seattle,
where the temperature dipped down below ten degrees, and we had nowhere
to sleep and no blankets? Remember how we held each other in that alley
way as we struggled to sleep, and you told me that we would be dead
by morning, but we survived? Do you remember?" "But now is
not like then," she said.
"Please, Firefeet," I said, "Get up."
"I can't," she said again, still crying.
"Please," I said, "I will do anything for you. Just get
up." She sat there, unmoving, her body only shaking now and then
because of the tears. I leaned in closer to her, kissed her on the ear,
and said, "Don't die... We have but the rest of our lives to be
with each other." And so, that night went on... Several hours past,
and we were gone.
I never left her side. And there was nothing but several three-worded
phrases exchanged between us. The snow piled on, and we were only
found next morning by the Connecticut Sheriff's Department.
In a very real way, we were already dead. We had been living the
lives of ghosts, drifting aimlessly. But what we had, what we found
each other, though it was not enough to last an eternity, it was enough.
© Benjamin Tepolt
[Author's Note: Written on Saturday, March 29, 2003.]
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