I can remember that day like it was yesterday. I woke up in the morning like I always do, rolled up in my wet, blue sleeping bag around 3:50. I knew the finkin’ sprinkler system was going to go on, which woke me up every morning…except for the weekends, when they gave me a little rest!
I went back to sleep because I didn’t have to be at work — my telemarketing job — until 7:30. Five minutes later I heard that clicking sound. I grabbed my sleeping bag, sneakers, a big black bag that held my clothes, and made a beeline to the gazebo, which was 50 feet away. The sprinklers let out a spray of water that would reach the gazebo floor and tables.
I laid down on a table, my head on my white dirty pillow, and tried to sleep. It was impossible, but I still had to wait about an hour for the sprinkler to go off. Then I could go get my stuff 100 yards away, from under a big bush by the water. There, I would camouflage my sleeping bag, pillow, and bag of clothes.
The "Dar” always laundered my clothes. I knew she was stressed out at having me living in Mission Bay Park; she had to lie to her aging parents and say that I was doing fine.
After I got my clothes from my hiding spot, I would trudge back to the gazebo and dress in the wee hours of the morning. I had the place to myself; in my mind, that was my house. I would be naked, standing there in the cold early morning, thinking, What the hell am I doing? This is not normal. But I had no place to go.
So, I dressed up in my shirt and tie and walked through the park. An hour later I was waiting on Garnet to be picked up by the bus.
I had a pretty big desk area at work, so I stored some of my clothes in a bag there along with all the money I saved from working. I stored it in my desk, hidden by a lot of files, thinking nobody was going to go into my desk. Thank God, I was right. I was trying to save up enough for rent money, as I was not planning on staying in Mission Bay Park for a long time.
That day was rough. I did not get any sales and felt really crappy. I got back on the bus in Mira Mesa and headed back to Mission Bay. I walked past the Hilton, toward the gazebo. Nearby, I kept my mountain bike locked to a tree, but that day, when I came walking up to the tree, I did take a double-take — the bike was gone.
“Shit! Son of a bitch!” I yelled as loud as I could. Nobody was around to hear. Nothing I could do, so I walked to my spot by the water where I camouflage my stuff. There, again, I yelled and cried out some curses — all my stuff was gone: backpack, blanket, sleeping bag, dirty white pillow. Everything. I was wondering, What the hell is going to happen next?
About two hours later I got my answer. The Dar called. She was not in a good mood. She said she loved me but could not go on any longer like this, lying about where I live and work to her folks, her son, and other relatives. It was killing her emotionally, especially when she came to visit me and take me out to get fast food and then drop me back off at the park. That was “not normal” for anyone, she told me.
I thought to myself as she was crying on the phone, If I lose this woman, I might as well be dead. I did not tell her about my bike or stuff being stolen because that would have stressed her out more.
That night, after talking to her, I found a big carton lying on the sand, so I pulled it apart, laid it on the grass, and stared up at the stars until I fell asleep. When I woke up the next morning, it was cold outside, cloudy, drizzling. I was mad at me, mad at the world, felt like I had been taken advantage of with the theft of my belongings; I had just a few things to survive and those were gone. I thought nobody cared if I lived or died.
No sleeping bag to sleep in, no blanket to lay down, no backpack with my toothbrush and rolled up T-shirts, $30 worth of change that was gone…I had maybe five or six bucks in my wallet. I had no bike…but the worst is that I had no Dar. She was leaving me. But, I understood that any other woman would have dropped my sorry ass a long time ago.
I took the cardboard box and threw it into the bay, not caring about if I would need it later. I slowly walked toward Old Town to catch the trolley. It was maybe a mile away. I was in my not-so-clean shorts, a wrinkled T-shirt, had holes in my white socks, and my sneakers were pretty worn out, too.
I walked up the hill onto the bridge over the I-5 where cars and trucks whizzed by. It must have been 8 or 9 in the morning. I couldn’t recall what day it was. I was going to end my life. I saw the cars going by pretty fast as I stood on the ledge looking down. There were was nobody around who could see me. I remember cars honking. I must have been up there for three to five minutes, just staring, looking, my heart pounding a mile a minute, when I started to think, What if I jump and land on the pavement and don’t die? I might be paralyzed. That would suck!
There I was, ready to end my life, and I couldn’t even do that right! All I had to do was jump and I think it would have been over. While there, standing on the ledge, I thought, How the hell did I get here in the first place?
Tears were streaming from my eyes, my heart was pounding like I was going to have a heart attack. The air was cold, the sky filled with light drizzle. I was not a religious person, so I was not thinking that all of a sudden God was going to intervene. Just when I was ready to jump, I heard my father’s voice in my mind, saying to me at an early age, “You know, Jeffrey, money does not make you happy.” There was a long pause and then I heard, “but the lack of it will make you fucking miserable.”
Yep, I was broke and miserable. Okay, fuck it! I’m going to jump! Aloha!… Then I heard his voice again like he was standing right there in front of me.
My dad was owner and president of Perma Foam, which he created himself. He also invented the original Nerf ball, which I sold in fifth grade to my friends and introduced it as the Wizz ball. Yep, I have been in sales since I was 12 years old.
"Jeffrey, the easiest thing in the world to do is to give up! All you have to do is nothing. Give up.”
It was there that I yelled like a warrior in ancient days going on a warpath. "I'm not giving up, I want to live, dammit. I want to live. I calmly walked off the ledge, wiped the tears from my eyes, and walked back to the gazebo. I just sat there, thinking, I have a lot of work to do. I have to get myself the hell out of here.