I got stood up
the other night.
That's not in itself very interesting, but what was interesting was that I, all of a sudden, found myself standing in the middle of the city with nowhere to go. No purpose. For just four or five seconds I felt lost and... pointless. A very humbling and slightly scary feeling.
I remember looking around, thinking "Now what do I do?".
And then I thought "What if this was what I had?"
I was standing in the middle of the largest and most bustling pedestrian street in Copenhagen, and I was weirdly paralyzed. And I thought "If I were homeless, this is what I would have. Nothing. Just the city. Nowhere to go to get warm or safe..."
And for those five seconds my city seemed a lot less friendly and comforting than it usually feels to me. It felt big and cold and intimidating.
I'd never claim to know what it is like to be truly homeless. I only came close once, but nothing like close enough to not have a place to sleep for the night; not have a place to sit down with a cup of coffee and a book...
There's a homeless guy in my neighbourhood, outside my local supermarket, who sells a magazine called *"Hus Forbi". It's a magazine about, by, and for homeless people. I buy it once a month, and I usually give him something extra. We chat, sometimes. When it was hot I bought him icecream, and we talked about this and that. He loves dogs, and shoppers let him hold their dogs while they go shopping. The dogs like him.
He is homeless more or less by design. He says he doesn't like - cannot cope - with the whole being indoors thing. He prefers a definite lack of walls to be the most prominent feature of wherever he is. He can sleep standing up. That always amazes me whenever I see him doing it.
When he leaves his post in front of the supermarket he goes to a shelter. I don't know how he passes the time or what he does for fun; I don't need to know, I think. He's a nice guy, as far as I know, and that's pretty much it. I give him a £20 at christmas, and he accepts it very gracefully. I see it as his gift to me.
I see the less fotunate homeless people everywhere, though, lying in doorways to keep out of the wind; huddling in bus shelters keeping decent people from sitting down in those precious minutes while they wait for the bus. The older ones have empty eyes. The younger still look angry. But I guess that will pass as time does.
I, after recovering from the slight shock of being stood up, went to one of my favourite restaurants and had dinner, and then I went home to my warm apartment. But that nagging feeling of pointlessness remained with me for quite a while.
I try not to take my good life for granted. I really do.
*Hus Forbi is a play on words. It's an old idiom meaning something along the lines of "can't help you there", "you're missing the point" or "wrong guess": ("Something happened. You won the lottery?" "Nope. Hus forbi."). I'd venture the guess that the expression comes from a card game like perhaps Bridge or thereabouts. But it also means, literally, House Over, as in No More House.