The marble on my back was cold, but I was numb. It's hard to feel when you are homeless and broken.
I bought my first pack of smokes that night at a swarmy State Street Seven Eleven with sticky floors and a complete arm tatood clerk with an orange streak in her hair. They checked my ID, which was refreshing, but embarrassing. I was not yet homeless at that point of the evening.
A planned youth activity had completely hobo-ized me. My job was to dawn a face changing disguise and roam around the downtown malls during the brink of the holiday season, hoping not to be recognized and approached by teenage neighbor.
The gal at the Seven Eleven didn't ask if I was going to be smoking the cigarettes or if they would be part of a church activity. Neither did my Bishop.
ANYWAY, there I lay on the marble landing next to the understated, floundering water fountain - my fake beard creating an itchy rash on my chin that would stay with me for days. My dirty overcoat stunk of the west side Deseret Industries (you know the stench), and my gnarled, curly black wig hung into my eyes like the bacon out of the sides of a Egg McMuffin.
It was my first night as a hobo.
I walked from storefront to storefront, hunched and ready to prance on a dirty dime. I felt the sting of prejudice as I could feel the cold stares soak into my dusty undershirt like a cotton ear swap in a bottle of vinegar. "I'm homeless! I am not a freak!" This hurt. My unsmoked carton of cigarettes in my front pocket did not console me. I pulled one out and placed it over my right ear. If I was going to be homeless, I was going to be classy homeless.
Finally, familiar faces. Not a one recognized me. Not a single one gave me a second look, except as to point and laugh at the dirty hobo with the fingers cut out of his gloves. I was so forlorn, I didn't need the fingers. We homeless people are used to going without.
Even the neighborhood adults were passing me by. The helplessness and sadness in my eyes went unnoticed. I had never felt so lonely. I took out another cigarette and placed it over my other ear. I then took out the ragged and sooty handkerchief out my front pocket and audibly blew my nose into it like I had seen other hobos do before in similar situations.
Suddenly I felt the overwhelming desire to stand around a barrel with a fire in it.
As the evening came to a close, it became abundantly clear that I was not going to be discovered. I wandered over to Santa's shack and leaned on the railing, watching child after child sit on his lap. Tears began to flow freely as I realized...
I want my old life back! I want my wife! I want my things! I want my warm home! I want the love of friends and family! But mostly, I wanted my stuff! The clouds cleared in my bereft mind and I realized - owning stuff IS really important to me.
It was at that moment that I knew I had to start anew. I would quit smoking! I would quit and never look back! I threw my cigarettes in the trash. I would quit smoking and I would quit talking to myself out loud. This would be the first baby steps to a new life.
I yelled with glee at the freedom I felt. I would tell my wife I would love her! I would go home and tell her I love her! I would give my stuff a hug. You never know when you are going to lose your stuff.
My time as a homeless man has taught me some valuable moral lessons. I am a changed man and I never want to look back.
I will never look back. I have my stuff.