Homeless, Hungry, and Handled

There is something about men that I don’t understand. Well, honestly, there are a lot of things about men that I don’t quite get. Come to think of it, human behavior, in general, is a puzzle sometimes. Even my own, on occasion.
Right now, though, I am thinking of men touching women inappropriately. I heard a true story a long time ago about a woman coming home to find her husband with his hand up the skirt of her 80-year-old mother. What did he get from that? I can’t see that it was sexual attraction. So then what was it? It’s the same old question as why do people climb mountains? Because they are there. Where does a 200-pound kitten sleep? Anywhere he wants. So, it must be why did the man put his hand under his mother-in-law’s skirt? Because he could.

Years ago, when I was homeless for a brief time in Florida, I lived in a car with Mr. Ex (my former spouse) and two dogs. During the day, we spent time on a public beach. At night, we would sleep in parking lots or at parking meters, moving from place to place to avoid police. Money was limited, so we ate a lot of potted meat sandwiches. Mr. Ex would buy a loaf of bread and “lift” the can of potted meat, and that was dinner. I hate potted meat.

We needed money, so I got a job doing day labor. Mr. Ex didn’t work at first because we had two dogs living in the car with us. Someone had to look after the dogs during the day. We couldn’t just leave them locked in a hot car. I did various types of work, from being part of a cleaning crew in a new apartment complex to handing out advertising flyers. The cleaning work was hard enough, but walking around a neighborhood in the hot Florida summer sun was almost unbearable. A driver would drop off the work crew early in the morning. Each member got a stack of whatever flyer we were distributing that day. Then, from door to door, we would leave the flyer where the resident would be likely to find it. Coupons, ads, announcements.

The residents of the homes reacted in various ways to our leaving what many considered trash on their front door. They would yell at us, swear at us, and even threaten to sic their dogs on us. Hot sweaty, tired, thirsty, and often with no money to buy lunch, I toiled away to get my $25.00 check at the end of the day.

At the end of the day, my then Mr. Ex would pick me up. He took care of Pirate and Lisa until we got enough money together to pay for parking in a camp ground. Then we could tie them to the fence in our camping spot while we both worked. That was not ideal, but neither is being homeless and doing day labor. One thing I learned about myself and people in general. We have a drive to survive. We will do whatever we have to do just to get by one more day, including letting others take liberties that would be unacceptable in other circumstances.

That is what happened one day after work. I took my check to the supermarket where we usually cashed checks. They refused to cash it because the clerk told us that the flyer company didn’t have the funds to cover the checks.
I went back to the office, where one of the owners was still in. I told him what happened and explained how desperately I needed the money. He said he’d fix everything for me. He telephoned someone he knew at a local gas station and assured them he would cover the check. I waited across the room.

While he was talking, he motioned for me to come to him. Thinking he might have questions for me, I went to stand by him. He pulled me closer to him and began running his hand down my back, across my hips, and was moving to my front. I could hear his heavy breathing. I could smell his sweat. I couldn’t decide whether to run or take it. I really needed that money. Before I could decide the better course of action, his call ended. He let go and told me where to go get the money owed to me.

At that point, the $25.00 meant more to me than my dignity, human worth, or any of my liberated ideals. I thanked him. Can you believe that? I was thanking him for finding a way to get my money. He had turned towards me and was reaching out, but I was already on my way out the door.

Mr. Ex waited in the car while I got the checked cashed. He took most of the money because he “needed” to go drinking. Now, I ask you: Which of these two men took more advantage? I also wonder how many other women in desperate circumstances stand quietly by while a person with seemingly more power gets his jollies at her expense.

This article was written by Margie Campbell

I have been "writing" since I could first hold a pencil. I would fill lines with squiggles thinking that could convey my ideas to the world. As I grew, so did my interest in writing. It really helped when I learned to make letters and to combine them into "real" words. I have a degree in creative writing and a Master's in English (tech writing specialty). I am retired from teaching all types of writing as an adjunct at community colleges in VA, MD, Ohio, and WV.

6 thoughts on “Homeless, Hungry, and Handled”

  1. To answer your final question re: how many women in desperate circumstances stand by quietly….. far, far too many I think. It’s a travesty how we humans treat each other.

    1. Medium Bob,
      Thanks for the comment. You are so correct. There must be a way to improve, or is it human nature and has been this way forever?

  2. We let it happen mostly because we’re desperate but also because “twas ever thus.” And, I hate that! In the situation with the employer you were desperate to get the money owed to you. If you had slapped him and walked away you wouldn’t have the $25. You desperately needed the $25. With the creature who happened to be your first husband basically ’twas ever thus.’ He obviously assumed he owned you and everything about you and could do with it all as he pleased. Men have always assumed that superiority. I am pleased as punch that is changing now. And SOME men deserve all the dirt heaped on them.

  3. A disturbing, but courageous post! That is precisely why undocumented female workers are in such a bad position – An equally sad, but also interesting book by Isabel Allende is In the Midst of Winter. It sheds light on the very few choices some women from Latin-America have. Unfortunately, it is much the same for many women who were born right here. Thank you for shining a spot-light on something that is important and that does not get discussed when we hear from yet another celebrity #MeToo case. Most women in the position you describe don’t have a cell phone or internet access. You give them a voice!

Comments are closed.