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It may not sound like much to you, but it's more than I've had in a very long time. To me, $5 is a lot of money. $5 is food for the next 3 days. Or two pairs of pants and a t-shirt at the thrift store. $5 can even buy a lightly worn pair of shoes or a denim jacket that is two sizes too small.
But I'm not asking for $5 to eat or buy clothes, I am asking because I've desperately been trying to improve my life ... starting with a college education. It just seems that every step that I take towards a better life instantly crumbles beneath my feet.
A few years ago I thought that things were finally beginning to turn around for me when someone actually responded to my ad on Craig's List. In short: I agreed to use my food stamps to help pay for food if anybody out there was able to give me a place to sleep indoors at night. At the time I was living in a very small car and winter had already began very harshly that year.
The year before, however, was even worse: most mornings I would awake to my car being buried in snow and would have to dig my way out. To make things worse, I had eventually caught what I believe to be pneumonia due the cracks in the windshield and the window seals which allowed the frozen air to seep in.
I woke up one morning coughing so hard that I became very lightheaded and nearly fainted. Since I didn't have insurance it was not possible for me to go see a doctor or get any medication to help me. I ended up having to carry around a bunch of old rags in my pocket to use as handkerchiefs while I went into the public library to get warm. Eventually, the rags became so soaked with "excess" from my runny and clogged sinuses that I had to go wash them in the bathroom sink and then go put them back in my car's trunk switching them out for a handful of dried, greasy rags ... all before noon. I promised myself that I would never allow that to happen to me again. That is why I ended up posting the ad on Craig's List. In hindsight, I should've known better with all the horror stories you hear about people getting killed through the ads posted on Craig's List. But I was desperate.
Summers weren't much better, it would get so hot in that tiny car that one time I actually placed a reduced deli pizza under the back windshield for the sun to bake just enough so that I could eat it (REDUCED meaning that it was priced to sell since it had passed the expiration date). The pizza never got really got "cooked" but it did get warm enough for me to convince myself that it was just day-old pizza. Trust me, when you're hungry, you'd be amazed at the things you'll do for food (which makes sense of what happened to me from my Craig's List ad).
The people who responded decided to let me sleep on their couch if I would buy some food since they had none and no money. I agreed. I also told them that since it was the beginning of the month that I had just received my benefits and would be happy to help out. I met them at their house and then we left to go shopping ... I ended up spending all of my benefits to fill up their fridge and cupboards.
Later, after dinner, I was called into the next room where two of the men told me that I had to leave because one of the men's girlfriend didn't trust me in the house. His friend was there to escort me out as I grabbed my cardboard box and pillow and put them back into my car and drove away empty-handed. This world can be very cruel and unforgiving, especially to someone like me.
I don't know why I cried as I drove away. The house was small and roach-infested, and the air inside tasted very bad but it was still a significant improvement from the tiny car that I was living in. Trying to sleep in that backseat, I just never really slept at all. I was way to tall to fit, and to add insult, I had to share that space with half of my belongings that didn't fit inside the trunk.
But life wasn't always like this. I was a straight A student growing up, always in the honor's programs, and I worked very hard all of my life. More importantly, I WORKED all of my life. Most of the money that I ever made I had to give to my parents and whatever was left I used to buy my own food and clothes and pay for school. It wasn't much then, Junior High and High School are far more affordable than any college available in the country.
Because of school, my work schedule was kinda screwy and since I never got a key to the house, whenever I worked past 10 o'clock I had to sleep outside. Even if I got home at 10:05 my parents wouldn't open the door for me.
Because of work I rarely got to sleep in my own bed. Most of my nights were spent on a lawn chair in the backyard or sleeping on the hardwood boards of the front porch when it rained. Summers were the worst because I was constantly getting eaten up by bugs while I slept.
One month during the summer my job switched me to third shift because they were short on help. When I got off work I had to sit and wait on the cement steps at the back door and wait to be let inside. I couldn't knock on the door or I would get into trouble; my dad didn't want me waking up anyone in the house so I had to wait up to 3 hours for someone to get up and unlock the door for me to go inside and sleep. One time I sat in front of the door with my head resting on my knees, curled up in a ball, and I fell asleep waiting. I was unexpectedly awaken by a sharp stabbing pain right in the middle of my back where my dad pushed the door open hard to move me out of the way and the metal corner jammed into my spine--it was to teach me to never sleep in the way of the door again.
Most days of my youth were spent away from home, out roaming the alleyways looking for aluminum cans to sell. My brother would come with me because he was just as miserable in that house as I was and didn't want to be there either.
His life wasn't much better than mine, our parents resented him too but just not as much as they did me. I remember once as a child, while I was in the other room, I could hear my brother and sister fighting upstairs about something and when I went to see what was going on, I saw my mom push him down a flight of stairs.
He was lying at the foot of the steps holding onto his hip and crying when my mom had followed down the stairs and began kicking him in the face until he was able to get up and run away. He was ten years old at the time.
I always hated those stairs. I can remember coming down them one day because I was going to see one of my friends when my dad punched me so hard that I nearly went through the wall; I had never been hit so hard in my life. I was crying really hard as I tried to pick myself off of the floor but it was difficult because my arms wouldn't work right. I looked at him with such fright in my eyes because I didn't even know what I had done wrong; all he did was laugh at me. He was a very strong man who worked out everyday. I, however, was drastically underweight because the only food that I was allowed to eat was the food that I paid for. And at 16 years old working less than 20 hours a week, that didn't amount to much.
I ran out of the house that day and I didn't come home for nearly a week. I was too afraid. I spent my nights sleeping in alleyways and behind apartment buildings that had lots of shrubbery that I could use for cover. I didn't have any money and the food that I had bought was at the house so I spent that week eating berries from trees and bushes plus whatever I could find in dumpsters behind the local mart.
When I did finally go home no one even acknowledged or seemed to care that I had been gone for so long. And all of my food was gone.
It seems that this was about the time in my life that things started turning to the way things are for me now. And this is just the way things have been for me ever since. I don't want to live like this anymore. Now that my car is gone, so is the only home that I have had to live in for such a long time. I have long overstayed my welcome with what little friends I have left in this world and sleeping on the streets can be quite brutal most of the time.
I know that college can be quite expensive, even for the less reputable ones. With tuition, books and other school expenses being as high as they are, it can be quite overwhelming; most colleges even want a nonrefundable application fee anywhere up to $100 just to apply. Now add on top of that: transportation and other living expenses such as food, rent, clothing, utilities ... it's more than enough for anyone to turn in the opposite direction: "No, thanks. I have enough worries in my life. I'll just win the lottery, thankyouverymuch."
That was my attitude for a very long time. Now I realize how wrong that was and that I DO want the chance to worry about all of those things. Life here at the bottom isn't as glamorous as it may seem compared to the hustle and bustle of the normal persons' everyday. When you're eating moldy food and drinking milk that has gone sour, you will come to realize that the "hustle and bustle" means a better life.
All I am asking for is a chance at a better life. I know that it will take nothing short of a miracle just to raise enough for first year's tuition, but it has to begin somewhere, right? I am the type of person who has always believed in angels but I never knew why. Maybe you are that reason.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Best wishes and warm regards,
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