You can’t tell my looking at me, but I’m homeless. Don’t get me wrong. I have a perfectly lovely brownstone in Park Slope with two floors and three bedrooms. But forty-seven days ago my husband, my best friend, died and I am, quite simply, homeless.
Right after Danny died, I was walking home from somewhere unimportant (everywhere is unimportant without Danny) and I saw a homeless man on the corner. We have lived in the brownstone for six years and I have never seen a homeless person on this particular corner. He looked lost, scared, alone. I feel lost, scared, alone. That’s when I realized that I am homeless too. Home is the place that you feel safe, where you can be yourself. Homeless people don’t have that. They can never let their guard down, relax. There is no comfort when you are homeless. Just fear and sadness and anger. Danny is gone and I am homeless.
My friend Amy recommended that I start this blog. She said it might help me to heal. I don’t know that it will, but I have to try something. I went to a couple of those group meetings full of young widows and parents who have lost teenagers. So much tragedy. That’s not for me. I don’t want to share my life and loss with strangers. At least not verbally. I don’t have enough room for their sorrow too.
Danny and I met in kindergarten. The first week of school, Danny threw my backpack into a tree. He told me later that if was trying to make me cry. He couldn’t remember why. I guess he was just being a little boy. But I didn’t cry. I climbed the tree to rescue my backpack. It would be a great “girls can do anything” story if I hadn’t fallen and broken my arm. Danny sat beside me until the school nurse came. I think he was just scared that I was going to tell on him, but he says that he felt guilty. I went back to school with a bright pink cast on my arm and a new friend.
Ours isn’t one of those sappy childhood sweetheart stories, though. We were close for a little while and then drifted apart as we became aware of the difference between boys and girls. As we got older, we’d chat once in a while, maybe go to a movie together with a group of other kids, but we didn’t date. We went to college in different states and lost touch.
Then the summer after college graduation I was living in New York, interning at a marketing firm downtown. I was taking the subway home after work one night and sitting right across from me was Danny. He was going to NYU to get his Masters in social work. We started talking and ended up going out for beers. It was nice to have a friend from home in the city and we began hanging out together. The rest is sappy love story. We spent a year and a half as “just friends” before one of us (I say it was me, Danny says it was him) had the nerve to admit our feelings went deeper. We got married two years later.
That was just six years ago. How can my whole life be gone so quickly and yet still be in front of me?
Danny had gone out to get lettuce. We were having friends over for dinner and I forgot to buy lettuce for the salad. “No problem,” Danny said. “I’ll run out and grab some.” He was like that, always wanting to make my life easier. I forgot the lettuce. I should have gone to get it.
He hadn’t come back when our friends arrived. I thought it was strange, but Danny was always picky about vegetables. If he couldn’t find a head of lettuce without brown spots or wilted leaves, he’d walk twenty blocks to find a better one. When he wasn’t back 30 minutes later I began to worry. When I tried his cell, a policeman answered. I don’t remember much after that. I think I handed the phone to Amy’s husband, Ian. I remember sitting on the couch my while Amy held my hand.
Danny was crossing the street and a car went through a red light. Speeding through, actually. Danny and an old woman were killed. Four other people were injured. A couple of them came to Danny’s funeral. I thought that was nice. I didn’t go to the old lady’s funeral. I wonder if I should have.
Since that day, September 13, I’ve thought a lot about Danny’s lettuce. He was walking north, so he had all ready been to the vegetable stand. But no one ever mentioned a head of lettuce rolling around on the street. I guess they didn’t think it mattered. And it doesn’t, I guess. But I think about it. I wish I knew what happened to it.
I hadn’t seen the homeless man in a couple of weeks. I was starting to get worried about him. It’s hot in New York in the summer and you don’t have air conditioning when you live on the street. But he was back today.
He’s been living my corner almost a year now and I haven’t spoken to him once. I haven’t given him money or even nodded when I walk by. But I feel like he knows who I am, that we share something. Rationally, I know that it’s only because he appeared there right after Danny died, but it feels deeper than that.
So today I stopped. I held out my hand and smiled. I said, “You’re back.”
And he spit at me. Not exactly the Hallmark moment I was hoping for. But before I walked away, I saw a head of lettuce sitting on the top of one of his bags. I’m not crazy. I know it’s not Danny’s lettuce, but it made me smile anyway.