Homelessness and Spitting: Part III

Ok, so since I haven’t had any time to write anything new and mind-blowing, here’s part three of the epic saga about the gentleman who liked to orally soil his clothing.

If you didn’t yet read Part I, here you go.
Then read Part II.

In 2008, I wrote a mini story inspired by a kid I used to know named Keith.  He was really odd, would spit on himself during study hall, had very strange views of the world and America, was generally gross and unappealing and said his greatest ambition in life was to become homeless.  I considered myself his friend and talked to him regularly, but wasn’t unaware of his quirks and the impressions of him held by most of the student body.  What I wrote was largely fabricated, but it actually was inspired by a real-life guy who really did spit on his trousers during school and dream about being a hobo.


“Keith, good to see you. Take a seat, “ said the school guidance counselor. He was your typical guidance slack, unfit to pilot his own life let alone anyone else’s. Mid thirties, a painting of some dinghy at sea, a wooden plaque telling humankind he has a Master’s degree in being as useless as a bent umbrella at a mid-Atlantic shipwreck.

“I’m sure it’s good to see me,” I said.

“Keith, I have heard some things,” he began. “I’ve been informed of some rather unusual behavior you’ve been exhibiting during your study hall period.”

I told him I promise to stop throwing pencils at the ceiling.

“Not that,” he said.

“Oh, oh, oh, I won’t bring my jar of jelly there anymore either. Sorry. I wasn’t aware it bothered anyone. It’s just I get so hungry and it’s so…”

“Not that either,” he corrected me a second time.

I guess he means the other thing.

“The spitting.”

Yep, he meant the other thing. And here I thought maybe we could end this with a misdemeanor charge of out-of-bounds jelly.

“Why do you do that?” he asked.

A good question with a good answer.

“I want to be homeless,” I said to him.

“That’s not a good answer.”

His unibrow arced toward his nose, shapedlike a breadstick with a bite out of the center.

“Why would you want to be homeless?” he said.

I assumed he doesn’t often deal with students who engage in orally soiling their own clothes.

“I just want to live for myself,” I said.

“How does spitting on yourself and being homeless get you to that end?” he said. “You have many more opportunities, many more, by being successful, having a job, living in a home, and being with your family.”

I told him that isn’t true.

I told him his idea of success is material. It’s stuff. It’s fabricated. It’s plastic and wood and made in China.
I told him homelessness is freedom and fight.
I told him homelessness is sovereignty of man.
I felt like I was quoting someone to sound intelligent. I probably was.

“Success is being proud of each day. Proud of yourself, not proud of how others see you.” I said to him. “To you, your job, your bank account, your picture of a boat, that’s success. If someone else wakes up and says ‘today I want to eat a cupcake and pick a dandelion’ and they do it, that’s success to them.”

“True, but cupcakes and dandelions don’t give you the necessities of life,” he said. “Society doesn’t care if you eat cupcakes or pick dandelions.”

“I don’t want society to care,” I said. “I want to live for myself, not for society. Homeless people only have one thing to worry about – fending for themselves. Where to eat? Where to sleep? It It changes necessity. It takes all the crap we think we need and returns it to what’s literal. How can you live for yourself more than that?” That’s what I argue. He buys it like a broken lamp.

“That’s one way of looking at things, and it’s all well and good to say that. But it’s not realistic, and it’s bullcrap.” Years later, he’d end up being right.

I told him I disagreed.

A crisp spit spot on my pants where I recently dazzled an audience caught his eye. I gazed, somewhat transfixed, at the blue betta fish swimming laps around the three-inch plastic bowl on his desk.

“Keith,” he said, breaking my stare, “what do you do for fun?”

I told him I spit on myself, and the conversation circled around a few more times. Banter around and around for the sake of argument. Just like that fish on his desk.
I thought, he’s supposed to make a difference in people’s lives, but he doesn’t want to listen.
I thought, he doesn’t want to understand.
I thought, he doesn’t actually want to help.

“Keith,” he said.
His betta fish swam to the top of the bowl.

“Keith,” he said.
I realize it’s not simply a blue fish, but it has red on its underneath.

“Keith,” he said.
“Are you planning to go to college?”

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