The daily trudging around town, trying to scrounge up the money to get what I need for the day, generally begins when I leave the Mission around 7 a.m., no matter the weather. Around here it can change in an instant and you're suddenly and completely soaked to the skin, the wind whipping cruelly through every layer of clothes like a knife.
I've been widowed for more than a year now and I must wander through my days alone and depressed. Worst of all, it's the Christmas season. I get to listen to all those Christmas carols wafting off the breeze and gaze at the hundreds of lights twinkling gaily everywhere I go.
I've been working hard over the last several months to get into an apartment of any kind to finally call my own, only to have each hope dashed before my very eyes. I know now there is nothing I can do but wait until this "joyous season" is over. All my paperwork is done, all my i's are dotted and t's crossed, but to no avail. I've even looked and walked inside several places (studios) and talked to the landlords but everything somehow stalls pitifully out and here again I sit. And now everything will grind to a halt until January.
My only solace is I have a place to go each night for a meal, some prayer to soothe my weary soul, a hot shower and clean clothes. At the end of the day, I get a mat and a warm blanket to rest my tired old bones, so I can start the whole process over again the next morning, day after endless day. I know because of the season, most likely I'll get very little accomplished until sometime in January, and my poor heart sinks into the depths of my soul. I shuffle through the crowds of well wishers and laughing people discussing their treasures for their loved ones while I silently gaze through the looking glass like a stranger from another place, knowing that, this year, I'll not be getting any beautiful Christmas cards or making that joyous phone call to wish the family a Merry Christmas. No presents can I give, no hope of any to receive and I pray for the New Year to finally arrive so I can once again begin the process of getting on with my life, feebly trying to keep what's left of my grieving spirit up, to little or no avail.
This, my friends, is my Christmas: somber and melancholy and long and there are so many more of us sad souls going through the same treadmill, hundreds all over, who can barely remember the joys of Christmas morning, loved ones gathered all around, the smells of Christmas delights, the tree standing proudly, lights aglow, tinsel and Christmas bulbs all around.
Sometimes my feet feel like lead as I wander aimlessly through the passing crowds, feeling like I'm but gazing from the sidelines, never quite a part of the whole joy of the holiday spirit thing. And longing for a brighter day. But I am but one in a very lonely line of souls whose only thought is, "I'll be homeless for Christmas."
Robert Hager is a U.S. Army veteran who is homeless in Eureka. He currently sleeps at the Eureka Rescue Mission. A book of his poetry is for sale at Because Coffee, Third and F streets in Eureka.