First off, thanks for all of the nice emails about the last story (Leave Her to Heaven). Even the people who thought the story was outside of their comfort zone found something nice to say. This one is more down to earth and firmly rooted in the real world. The only thing controversial about this one is the title. I originally wanted to call it Betty, but AK and Barney-R both thought it should be 8 Mile. I guess to really understand 8mile you have to live in the Detroit area, but I hope the story gives you at least a bit of it. It’s also helpful to have seen some of those Hilarious Canadian lawnmower commercials to get some of the bits.
As usual this is a longer story, so if you’re looking for a quicker two pager to help you get your tug on, I’m not mad at you, but this isn’t the story for you. Thanks as always to Barney-R for making this thing legible and to AK for her help in fleshing out some aspects of the story. Here we go. SS06
It was the warmest day we’d had in at least a couple of weeks. It was almost thirty degrees outside; and I was outside most of the time. Frankly, it worried the shit out of me. When you live in Michigan, temperatures in the mid thirties mean only one thing; SNOW.
Being without residence or independent of domicile as I liked to call it, brought about a completely different view of snow for me. You see unlike people who have some place to go, snow is not a mere annoyance to me. It doesn’t mean that I have to wake up earlier to get to work. It doesn’t mean that I’ll have to get out the shovel and do the driveway and the sidewalk. It certainly doesn’t mean I’ll be sipping any fucking tea in front of the God damned fireplace.
Snow can kill me. I’m a forty six-year-old woman. I am statistically dead in the middle of middle age. That means that there’s usually no room for me in the homeless shelters. There are two types of shelters. The juvenile homes that cater to teenagers and runaways have not only no room for me, but they can’t even house me in an emergency because their funding is specifically designed for kids.
The regular homeless shelters won’t take me because number one, I’m a woman; and with the overwhelming majority of the homeless being men, they don’t want the problems. They usually suggest that I go to a women’s shelter.
Women’s shelters tend to prioritize, younger women with small children. And although I have a child out there somewhere; he’s a twenty eight-year-old man with a wife, one child that I know of and problems of his own.
Women’s shelters also try to make room for extremely older women or women with mental problems or drug and alcohol problems. I have none of those. Most of the time they try to find me a job.
Even when they’re successful, it’s hard to keep a job when you have no place to stay. No place to stay means, no place to sleep, or to shower. It means you end up wearing the same clothes a lot which means you stink. And there are other problems too numerous to mention.
I probably shouldn’t, but I have pride. I refuse to beg for money, although there was a time when I gave it out. I always got a good feeling when I gave a dollar or two to a homeless person, never thinking in my wildest dreams that I would someday become one of them.
I dress as warmly as I can. I pick up and keep any thrown-away clothing items I can find. Every layer between the cold and my body could save my life.
I tend to like bigger men’s clothing. Not because I’m a big woman, but because bigger clothing tends to hide the curves of my body. It’s extremely dangerous for a woman on the streets.
I hate to be the one to tell you this, but the real world ain’t like Oliver Twist. There are no hobos with a heart of gold who share their food, like Red Skelton’s little tramp. One of the biggest dangers to homeless people is other homeless people.
When I’d been on the street for less than a month. I met up with another woman. She took me under her wing because she knew that I was new at it. She said she could tell because my clothes were in good condition, and I didn’t really stink yet.
And she was right. I’d been forced out of my home only two weeks before, and I was still sure it would be a temporary condition. I had what I considered the bare necessities, a few changes of underwear and bras, a couple of lightweight outfits, another pair of shoes, my bank card, a phone, etc. packed into an over sized backpack.
She showed me a couple of safer places to sleep and told me which places to avoid. She also showed me how to spot a good quality restaurant or store. The good quality places were important because they did something the cheap, shitty places didn’t do. They threw out food at regular intervals. And as long as you didn’t make a nuisance of yourself, they didn’t mind if you took it out of their trash. Some of them would even pack it up for you.
She also added a few lies in with the things she told me. One of those was not sleeping in your shoes. She told me that by sleeping in my shoes, I not only put more wear and tear on them, I further degraded them and my socks and my feet by not allowing them to air out and get rid of the traces of moisture that walking in them all day created. It sounded logical, so I tried it.
The third morning that we were together, I awoke to find her gone. So was my backpack, my few other belongings and even the shoes that she’d insisted I take off.
She did leave me a note. It told me that she had just taught me the most valuable lesson that anyone could. When you’re on the street; trust no one. She mentioned of course that she was only passing the information down the chain the exact way that she herself had learned it only a few months before.
I was barefoot for more than a week before I got lucky and found a nearly worn-out pair of tennis shoes that were at least a size too small in a trash can behind an apartment building. I was so happy I didn’t know what to do.
Since then many things have happened to me, and most of them were bad. So that afternoon, sensing that snow was coming, I was on high alert.
Ideally, I was looking for a place to sleep that night and for however long the snow lasted. Michigan is a really funny place in some respects. The weather can and does change in a heartbeat. And the people are just as changeable.
That day had been awful. Earlier that morning a woman with a big car and big tits had blown her horn at me. I looked towards her. Inside of her warm car, she had taken off her jacket so her boobs were on display.
She beckoned me over. She held out a handful of change, and just as I got close to her car and got an eyeful of her boobs she dropped it. I wondered if she thought that the boob show was the real reward, or if she was just teasing the bull. Either way she was being a bitch, and I wasn’t having it.
First because being a woman, her boobs meant nothing to me. And secondly, I had a lot of pride. I wasn’t going to grovel in traffic on a dangerously busy road for a bunch of pennies, nickels, and dimes.
“Pick it up,” she said.
“Fuck you, bitch!” was my answer as I turned and walked away.
I was walking along Eight Mile road; the broad expanse made famous by Eminem’s movie of the same name, when I saw them. Two homeless men heading rapidly towards me, I had a history with them. I hadn’t seen them in about a month.
I wasn’t eager to see them again. Our first meeting had involved the two of them discovering that I was a woman, followed by two days of being repeatedly being raped. Finally, they decided to pimp me out to make money.
They went so far as to line me up with a customer. I was supposed to pull off of the avenue onto a side street with the guy in his car. There I was supposed to A: collect the money. And then B: give him a blowjob. Following which he would return me to my would-be pimps.
As soon as the car door shut, I made another deal. We pulled around the corner as scheduled. I gave the guy his blowjob for free, and he let me out a mile away. It was a better deal for both of US. And hopefully neither of us would ever see my supposed pimps again.
So that afternoon, seeing them heading for me, I knew that we were not about to have a pleasant reunion. At the very least, I would be raped again. At the worst ... I didn’t want to find out.
This was after all Detroit. The body of another homeless woman wouldn’t even make the headlines. I looked in every direction for a place to bolt to and realized that I had no choice. I darted into the rushing traffic of Eight Mile’s wide expanse.
With a few angry drivers blowing their horns at me, I made it to the island that separated the eastbound traffic from the westbound traffic.
The two men trailing me looked at each other. They realized as I did the danger of what I had just done. People who don’t live in the area don’t realize that the danger that gave the men pause wasn’t from the traffic.
Eight mile road is more than just a major roadway. Eight mile is the border between Detroit and its suburbs. It is far more than just a line on a map.
As soon as you cross Eight Mile the rules change. On the Detroit side of the road, the cops have too much to do and too many serious crimes to worry about. They totally tend to ignore homeless people, and hookers are a mere annoyance.
.... There is more of this story ...