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• Darren
• Darren and the Circus
• The Surreality of It All
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• Aaron
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TTOK[sic] thoughts from the artist

Darren (08/28/20)

Every so often, somebody walks into your life totally unexpected and proves that there is so much good in our world. Regardless of how much negative that can often surround us, good people always prevail. This is Darren's story...

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My name is Darren. I don't remember much of my early childhood, though I had thought it was a happy one until my Dad and Mom got divorced when I was 5. Then my Mom married the guy she was having an affair with that caused my Dad to leave. But my Mom told me that my Dad had left because he didn't want to raise a retarded kid. I didn't understand what that meant when I was 5, but would soon learn. Shortly after my Mom got remarried, and my step-dad and his two kids moved in, they called me a retard and a freak almost daily. My Mom never stood up for me, and that started a long period of what would end up being a bad childhood.

I was made fun of at school because I didn't learn as quickly as the other kids did, and never had as nice of clothes as the other kids. I got beat up and bullied regularly, including by my step-brother; my Mom and step-dad never did anything to stop it. In fact most of the time, they didn't even know I was around.

And so I spent a lot of time alone, but that did provide time to struggle through school and keep my grades up.

When I turned 18, even though I was a couple months from graduating from high school, my Mom said it was time for me to take care of myself, and kicked me out of the house. I grabbed a backpack with as much clothes as I could carry, and a bit of money, and stayed at the house of another kid from school till graduation. Once I had graduated, they too said I should leave.

So there I was, 18, homeless, and alone in a really small town in Arizona. There was nothing there for me, so after a few days I went to the local truck stop, and got a ride from a trucker to California.

The two days of that ride were the ride from Hell, something that I hope to write about in the future. But as the driver got out in a truck stop in Southern California, I grabbed my backpack and ran. I had no idea where I was running too, but I kept running until I found a park with a bathroom, drinking fountain, and some bleachers that I thought would work to sleep under. That began my adventure in Southern California.

I had a lot of adventures over the next 6 years. I call them adventures, even though they were really anything but adventures - but I couldn't let them get me down. I did everything I could to survive, without going to smoking, drugs, alcohol or anything that would get me arrested. I spent as many hours a day as I could in the local libraries, did everything I could to be as presentable as possible, and managed to find enough money to get one good meal a day - most of the time.

One of these days I am going to write all about my 'adventures', but that will be much more detailed. This is just a quick story of how things came to be as they are now.

When out on the streets, I had learned the places I could find recyclables to help make money I needed to eat, and one day I was at an apartment complex digging through a garbage bin to get a bunch of cans and bottles at the bottom. I was inside the bin when the lid closed shut on me.

The amazing story of my new life started at that point.

As I reached up to open the lid back up, a guy from the apartment complex raised the lid to throw a bag of recyclables into the bin. I scared the crap out of him, he scared the crap out of me, and I did the only thing I knew how to do, climb out quickly and run. I left a huge bag of cans and bottles behind, just running as quickly as I could to get safely away.

After a couple hours, I went back to the garbage spot to see if my cans/bottles were still there. I probably could have got $10-15 from that bag at the recyclers. My heart sank as I got there and it was gone. But then in its place was a note from the guy I had scared, apologizing for scaring me, and letting me know that my bag was at his apartment.

I didn't know what to do, at that time in life I didn't trust anybody, so I waited till early the next morning and went up to the third floor to his apartment. Outside his door was my bag of cans/bottles, another bag full of more cans/bottles, and an envelope with a note and $40.

"Sorry I scared you! I wanted to make sure you got your recyclables, and hope this cash will help a bit. If you need anything else, let me know. We'll have more recyclables for you here next week if you want them. Dave"

I was shocked. $40 would feed me for the week, since I ate once a day at El Pollo, which meant I got healthy food for a little bit of money. The girls at the El Pollo knew I would come in, and regularly put extra food in my bag. I had a lot of people who helped me out for those 6 years on the street, doing their small part to keep me going. That in itself is another couple of pages of writing, since so many small acts of kindness kept me going for quite some time.

I remembered I had a pen and sticky notes in my backpack, so I wrote "Thank you, Darren" and left it on the door of Dave's apartment.

For the next few weeks, every Saturday morning, I would go up to Dave's apartment, to find a bag of recyclables, clothes, socks, a new backpack, cans of food, bottles of water, and always a note telling me to let him know if I needed anything, and always some cash.

One week there was $100 in cash. I had literally never seen $100 in cash at one time before. I was crying like a baby as I wrote my thank you note to him.

A few weeks later I walked into El Pollo to get my daily meal, and saw Dave and a couple of his friends at a table in the restaurant. There was no way I was going to go over to them, though I desperately wanted to. But Dave noticed me, and after a few seconds came over to say hello. He bought me lunch and had me come over to the table with his friends to eat.

I was scared to death, but had a really big meal that day, and met Dave and his friends. They were everything I wanted to be, and everything I wanted to have in my life - a group of friends.

I cried myself to sleep that night, and dreamt of having friends like that I could hang out with.

The next Saturday I went to his apartment, got my recyclables, and the regular envelope with note and cash, always telling me to let Dave know whatever I needed.

The next day, early Sunday morning, I was walking from one apartment complex to another, and I saw Dave and one of his friends walking these two beautiful lab dogs. Again, I was really scared to approach them, but I had to say hello and say hello to the dogs.

I've always been good with animals, especially dogs, and as I came up to say hello, Dave let the dogs off the leash and they ran towards me, and we rolled in the grass, played, they licked my face like crazy, all the time their tails wagging away like crazy. I spent about an hour talking with Dave and the guys and playing with the dogs. Then said I had to go (like I had anywhere to go to) and took off.

Again, I wondered if I could ever have friends like that, and with dogs like that? I mean, all my life I had been called a retard and a freak. But these guys liked me, treated me like one of the guys, and the dogs loved me - that had to be worth something?? Deep down inside, I knew I wasn't a freak - I really knew that.

Then disaster struck. I knew several of the other homeless in my area were not stable and could be violent, but I always watched for them. Early one morning I had gotten up and started on my recycling route and bam - got hit in the head from behind.

When I came to, I not only had a splitting headache, but my backpack, almost all my clothes, and even my shoes were gone. One of the homeless guys in the area had knocked me in the head and I had blacked out and he took nearly everything I had.

I didn't know what to do, and as I started walking away I had to throw up, grimacing because of the headache, and could barely just sit in the parking lot without my head hurting. Plus, I had no shoes, which made walking even more difficult. And everything that Dave and the guys had got me was gone.

I was so mad at myself for not being more careful, there was no way I was going to tell Dave and the guys what happened, and I tried my best over the next 24 hours to manage - which meant I sat there, not moving. Every time I went to stand up, I got dizzy, head started throbbing even more, and I would throw up.

After a miserable night's sleep, I needed help, but was so scared that I had disappointed Dave by allowing everything to be taken. But I really needed help, I hoped they would understand.

I managed to walk about 2 miles to their apartment, and didn't get the response I thought I would. The guys were more than concerned and didn't even care that everything was stolen. To them that was unimportant, I was what was important to them. I had never experienced that before - they actually cared about me and how I was doing.

They brought me in, got me water, food, aspirin, and took me to the clinic to get checked out - they even grabbed a new pair of shoes for me. I had a concussion, and was told to take it easy for a week or so until the headache went away. How was I supposed to do that while homeless? That wasn't an issue with the guys either, they said I was staying with them until I was back to normal.

For almost 10 days I had a roof over my head, a really comfy LazyBoy chair to sleep in, these incredibly soft blankets, all the food and drink I could imagine. The headache eventually went away, and I was preparing to head back out to the streets.

That day, all of Dave's friends were over at the apartment, and they said there was no way they were going to allow me back out on the streets, and that they had a room at their house in the city next to them. That was the house where they kept the dogs, so I could have the dogs around me, help take care of them, and would have my own room to live in so I could get on my feet.

I was still having trust issues, their offer sounded too good to be true, there had to be strings attached, so I gathered my things (they had got me a new backpack and necessities) and told Dave that I would think about it. He looked disappointed at my response.

As I walked out of the apartment complex I was thinking "what do I have to think about?" They were offering me everything I wanted and never had - a place to live, food, clothing, friends, dogs. I had been told I was dumb, retarded, a freak all my life, this time I decided I had to risk it, make a smart decision, and I had to say yes.

I walked back to Dave's apartment, the door was open, Dave sitting at his desk looking at me with a giant smile, but with tears in his eyes. He told me he had hoped I would come right back, and couldn't deal with me saying no and heading back out to the streets. He was getting ready to go out and try to convince me to move in. I got the biggest, strongest hug I had ever gotten from anybody. All the guys were really happy I was moving in.

The next morning we headed over to the house, a beautiful house in a beautiful neighborhood, my own room, and 4 dogs. Four, they had two other dogs that I had not met. And this beautiful backyard where I chased the dogs around, rolled in the grass with them, laid down barking and growling at them. I ended up throwing up because I had run around so much.

I was in heaven. I slept on the floor with the dogs the first night, still not believing any of this was true. That ended after a couple days when I realized how comfortable the bed was - and it also had those really soft blankets. I now had a place to live, everything I needed, friends and dogs, and for the first time ever, they had a birthday party for my 24th birthday! I hadn't had a birthday party since I had turned 5.

That was the beginning of my real life. There were many true adventures after that, so many new friends to meet and hang out with, so many places to go that I had only seen in books. I have started writing more about some of these adventures, and Dave has also been documenting some of them, so I'm sure more will get posted here.

This year, 2020, I just turned 29, have a great job, great friends, great dogs (we had 6 until our white lab Misty died, but still have 5) and more than everything I could ever need. I even have a phone now and a passport! My dreams came true more than I could have imaged.

Oh, and even though my Mom and others said I was retarded and a freak when I was growing up, I know that is not true! And Dave and guys knew that too - from the beginning!

#Darren #homeless #gratitude #helpingouthers