What would you save of your estate if all you had was 32 gallons of storage?
We never get the full picture at the Day Center, even with the people who are most forthcoming. Human beings are too complex, even the damaged ones, the ones who seem like they have no life except clinging to survival.
I may write like I know people but I'm just taking snapshots of passing shadows.
Abe, for instance.
I've written about him in years past under other assumed names. How his camp gear was soaked by rain. How he made the rounds of park trash bins to recycle aluminum. How he stopped riding his bike in the winter because his feet were too cold without the contact with the ground. How a motel refused his money. How he went back to Ohio to settle up family affairs after his parents died because he was the responsible one. How he was sleeping rough this winter.
Now I'm writing about his absence. How nobody knows where he is.
We provide three dozen or more people a secure storage bin where they can safeguard papers, clothing, keepsakes—whatever they don't want to risk at the shelter, at a campsite or in a backpack. As long as they don't store food or drugs, we don't ask questions. As long as they actively use their storage and don't overfill the bin, they can keep it.
Abe signed out his bin in October 2006. He hadn't used it since November. Today we emptied it.
Someone else needs the bin.
Sometimes it's easy. A tangle of free store clothing can go right to the dumpster. But today was hard.
Here's what we found:
- A cap, some flannel pants, a thin jacket
- On Death and Dying, Jimmy Carter's The Virtues of Aging
- An insulated lunch pack filled with hollowed egg Christmas ornaments
- A homemade machete in a crude scabbard made of nailed together millwork
- Miscellaneous costume jewelry and an antique ivory brooch on a silver chain
- A dozen painted tiles mounted on wood that might have been a mother's collection
- Two fragile plexiglas reliquaries containing dried plants
- A Sandusky Ohio high school diploma in a red leatherette case, with a certificate for participation in varsity track.
We put this in the back storage room, in case he comes back.
God, I hope he comes back.