Novels for Women: The Gentlemen’s Club, A Story For All Women – Chapter 1

1

 

I felt on edge. I had a feeling things were about to change. I had

been sleeping in the same parking lot too often, but it was my

favorite. It belonged to a business with employees, twenty-four hours

a day, seven days a week. Small hills surrounded my car, blocking

me from the road. I felt safe being only slightly off the main

highway. The same traffic that carried my danger also carried my

security.

I changed into my sweats, the clothes I slept in. I watched a man

walking toward my car from my side mirror. I quickly tried to

rearrange my car so it wasn’t obvious that I was living there. I

grabbed my pen and paper and tried to look busy as if doing an

assignment for college under the parking lot lights. I began thinking

about what I would say to him.

Maybe he was coming to help.

He tapped on my driver’s side window. I acted surprised and

rolled it down a crack. I could tell by the disgust on his face that he

was not there to help me.

“What are you doing here?” he asked.

“I…”

“You can’t sleep here!”

“Oh, I’m not. I’m waiting for my workout partner. He’s late. We

workout at that gym,” I said, pointing.

He knew I was lying and walked away.

I rolled up the window and tears rolled down my face. I was

embarrassed. I was angry at him. Couldn’t he see I was homeless? I

just needed a safe place to sleep. I hardly drink. I don’t do drugs. I’m

not a dirty street person. I shower every day.

But to him, I was trash.

I couldn’t stop crying. I drove my car to the public library to take

my mind off my lonely homelessness. I couldn’t go in. My tears

wouldn’t stop. I tried to laugh it off. It had worked in the past, but

not this time. I was tired. I had beaten myself down. I was no longer

a hard scab. I was an open wound and I was in pain. The cold hurt.

The night hurt.

And every thought hurt.

After sitting in torment for two hours, I went to the dry cleaning

store I managed and let myself inside. I grabbed the phone book and

searched for a hotline for help. My eyes still blurry with tears, I

dialed the number. The woman who answered connected me to a

shelter. Within a half an hour, I was driving to that shelter for help.

Judith, a heavyset woman, led me to the dining room. We sat

down together at the table. I was still crying.

“We have room. We’d like you to stay,” Judith said.

“I really just want to talk to someone.”

“OK. Can I get you something?”

“No,” I said. “I was doing fine until tonight. A man kicked me out

of a parking lot. All I wanted was a safe place to park my car so I

could get some sleep. I wasn’t breaking any laws, was I?” I asked,

wanting to be reassured that I wasn’t.

“Why are you living in your car, Angie? Do you have family?”

“Because I can’t afford a place to live. And, yes, I have family

but I can’t be around them.” I grabbed a Kleenex from the box in

front of me, then added, “Not like this. I don’t want to be around

anyone right now.”

“We can help you find a job.”

“I have a job, two jobs,” I snapped.

“Are you angry at me?”

I took a deep breath and sighed, remembering that this woman

wanted to help me. “No… I’m just tired.” My tears welled up again,

and I put my head down on the table.

“Honey, why don’t you stay with us tonight.”

That thought frightened me. Who would I have to share a room

with? Who would I have to talk to? Would I have to fill out paper

work, let the government know I was homeless? Would I have to get

up in the morning and do chores? Would I be safe? “I just want a

safe place to park.”

“OK. What about those twenty-four hour grocery stores. You

could park at Cub Foods one night and Rainbow the next. There are

enough people around that nobody should bother you. The parking

lots are well lit, and I’m sure nobody would chase you out.”

“That’s a good idea,” I said and raised my head. I had already

spent many nights at those parking lots. It wasn’t easy sleeping there.

Besides the bright lights, I woke to many car doors slamming. It

didn’t matter where I parked in those lots; somebody always ended

up right next to me. I often heard them talking about me, reminding

me what I had become.

“Angie, if you have two jobs, why are you living in your car?”

“Well, I was living with a guy. We were both miserable, so I

moved out. I have credit card debt. I owe more money each month

than I make. I never found a place to live. I thought I’d live like this

for a month or so just to get back on my feet, but it’s five months

later and I’m still here.”

I felt the heat in my face and added, “I’m crying more… It’s

getting harder.”

Judith spent three hours counseling me on money, relationships,

and how to take better care of myself. The three areas I had been

failing. She reassured me that no matter how far in debt I was,

nobody had the right to keep me from a roof over my head.

Before I left the shelter around 2:00 a.m., Judith loaded me up

with canned food, crackers, peanut butter, shampoo, tampons, and

toothpaste. She helped me carry the two bags out to my car. Judith

gave me a hug and told me to be safe. That was the first human

touch I’d had in a long time. I missed being touched.

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