76. What's Done Is Done

Author: Joshua Factor, Sophomore

Inspirted by true events:

I’m not going to bullshit you. It was two in the morning and pretty intense out there. The only thing driving me was the knowledge that, if I succeeded, I could one day gather my kids around the fire and tell them all about this. It was so cold out that I felt like I was running through a never ending outdoor freezer. By the time I finished, my legs felt like they were made of jelly and I had to sit down. I decided to sit down on a log next to a thicket of trees…or at least what I thought was a log, “ahhh!” I jumped up as quickly as I sat down after realizing the log had started moving. The “log” rolled over and I could see a face, “what the hell are you doing out here?” I asked, “Sleeping until you woke my butt up”
“Well, why aren’t you sleeping in your bed?”
“Well, the truth is I don’t have really one?”
“Oh, so you’re…”
“Homeless, yeah. What’s your excuse?”
“I couldn’t sleep and I’m sort of under a bit of pressure to lose weight so I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone. I never thought I’d run into anyone out here”
“Well, maybe you should look harder next time before you just go sitting down Willy nilly”
“Sorry, I didn’t know anyone else was out here. Who are you anyway?”
“The name’s Henry. What about you?”
“I’m Van”
“Nice to meet you; now if you’ll excuse me, dreamland is calling my name”
“Wait, I can’t just leave you out here all alone”
“It’s ok; I made a pillow out of this rock”
“Look, I have a mat back in my room. It’s not much but it sure beats being out here in the cold all night”
“You would do that for me?”
“You want to ask questions or you want to get out of the cold?”
“I’ll go with the latter; thanks, man” when we got to the room, he said, “look, I’m sure you must have a lot of questions for me but right now I’m dead tired so I’ll explain in the morning” and with that, he was out like a light. In the morning, I woke up to find him gone. I found him in the common room taking things out of the refrigerator and smelling them, “what are you doing?”
“It’s been so long that I forgot what real food smells like”
“Well, don’t sniff it.” I said, snatching a jar of pickles out of his hand and putting them back in the fridge, “Look, I’ll get you something from the dining hall, ok? Just go back to the room, ok?”
“Alright” when I came back with some food, I watched him eat it and it was gone within minutes. “So” I said, “now that you’ve finished, would you mind explaining why you turned our cross country course into your own personal bedroom?”
“Where, should I start?”
“At the beginning”
“Alright, well it all started about four years ago. I had just been drafted and so I was saying goodbye to my wife. When I went off to the army, I was stationed in fort Benning. Everything was going well until the end of my service term. I was in the middle of a battle and I got shot in the leg. The doctors had to amputate it and they replaced it with a prosthetic leg designed to look as realistic as possible but my wife still couldn’t handle it”
“So what happened?”
“Well, she cared too much about what other people thought and she was worried that, if people found out, they would think that not only was I a freak but she was too just for being associated with me. So, long story short, she divorced me. Let me tell you a little something about marriage, kid. It sucks; I lost everything in the divorce: the house, the car, even the dog”
“You had a dog?”
“Yeah, she liked to call him chunky but his real name was joey”
“Oh, he was kind of on the heavy side?”
“No, he liked to eat chunky peanut butter”
“Oh, well I’m sorry”
“For what? It wasn’t your fault”
“I don’t know; it’s just something people say when you lose someone important to you”
“Well anyway, I spent the last two years constantly on the move. I tried to find a homeless shelter that would take me in but so far every one I’ve gone to has been full”
“Yeah, well it is getting close to the holiday season”
“Anyway, I thought my luck had run out when one day I stumbled upon this wooded area. I didn’t see anyone else there so naturally I figured it would be a good place to make myself at home for a while until I could find somewhere better to stay. I had no idea it was owned by a college; I swear”
“Yeah, I mean there were no signs or anything so how was I supposed to know? You’re not going to rat on me, are you?”
“No; I can tell you’ve been through enough”
“Thanks, man, I knew I had stumbled into a nice town”
“Oh yeah, it’s a small town but it’s got a big heart”
“I could tell. Everyone here seems really nice”
“Oh yeah, we pride ourselves in being really courteous and welcoming and…alright, you know what? We’re getting off topic here”
“So what are you going to do with me?”
“I’ll tell you what. My best friend’s parents sponsor a number of soup kitchens and homeless shelters throughout the country. Why don’t I talk to him and see if he can pull a few strings and get you into one of them?”
“Why would you do that for me?”
“Well, no one should be alone during the holidays. Plus, I figure if I don’t you get out of here soon, you’ll never leave”
“Yeah, I’ll bet that would be a great premise for a TV show”
“It would never work”
“Maybe you’re right”
“Well, I’ve got to get to class soon but I’ll talk to him afterward and see what he can do, alright?”
“Yeah, that would be great. Thanks, man”
“Don’t mention it” I smiled at him and he smiled back. From the look in his eyes, it was clear to me that all he really wanted out of life was just to find a place where he belonged. I could definitely relate to that. Before college, I didn’t exactly have an ideal childhood but, once I got here, people were more than happy to open up not only their homes but also their hearts to me. Now it seemed like my opportunity had finally come to do the exact same thing to others. “No” he said, what you’re doing here is great. I feel like I should tell somebody”
“No, I mean seriously don’t mention it. If anyone finds out I’m hiding you here, I could get kicked out”
“Oh, yeah, you got it, buddy. It’s the least I can do”
“Thanks, I’ll see you later” and with that, I was gone. Later on, I was sitting in the student lounge waiting when my best friend, Trevor, showed up, “hey, man” he said, “I got your message; what’s up?”
“We need to talk”
“It was like that when I found out”
“Wait, this isn’t about your car?”
“No, I was going to talk to you about…wait, what did you do to my car?”
“Dude, come on”
“Well, I was picking up Danielle and her psycho dog came out of nowhere and made a dent in it but it wasn’t my fault. I’ve told her to a million times to keep that mangy mongrel on a leash” Danielle is his girlfriend. I see her sometimes but usually when we hang out, it’s just the two of us and that’s just fine by me, “ok, you know what? We can discuss restitution for that later but right now, we’ve got bigger fish to fry”
“What is it?”
“Well, last night I met this guy and he slept in my room. You see where I’m going with this?”
“Absolutely and I am so glad you came to me first. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time”
“Yeah, you’re coming out of the closet, right?”
“What? No, look I found this homeless guy on the cross country course and he’s got no place to go for the holidays. So, since I know your folks sponsor a few homeless shelters, I was hoping maybe you could pull a few strings and get him into one of those so he won’t be alone for the holidays”
“Oh…yeah, sure, well, as you know, I’m not a miracle worker but I’ll make a few calls and see what I can do about it”
“Great, thanks, man” we stood up and started walking together, “so what would make you think I was gay?”
“Come on, you really want to go down that road now?”
“I’m just curious “
“Look, I don’t want to hurt your feelings”
“You won’t”
“Alright, well maybe it’s the way you walk”
“What’s wrong with the way I walk?”
“Well, for one thing, you do it with your palms wide open by your side. It’s like you can’t get enough of jazz hands or something like that”
“I have bad balance, ok?”
“well, then you might want to start carrying a balance pole around with you from now on lest you be perceived as not straight”
“Thanks for the tip. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a class to get to” and with that, I was gone. When I got back to my dorm a few hours later after class, I noticed a lot of signs which talked about doing room checks. I walked into my room and saw him on the computer playing angry birds, “what are you doing? I asked him, “What does it look like? Launching birds with anger management problems at green pigs which don’t actually look anything like regular pigs, now that I think about it”
“Well, you’re doing it all wrong. You have to aim so that the trail lines up with the…alright, you know what? Never mind that. We got a situation”
“What kind of situation?’
“Well, apparently the RA’s are planning on doing room checks pretty soon”
“What are we going to do?”
“Alright, don’t worry; you can just hide behind the closet door. They’ll never know you’re here”
“Ok, sounds good.”  A few days later, the RA came for my room inspection. She went over to open the closet door and she saw seemed to shock her, “I can’t believe this” she exclaimed
“Look, it’s not what it looks like”
“That shirt is so four years ago”
“Yeah, the blue one. It looks like it was made in the 90’s”
“Oh, that old thing? Yeah, I’ve been meaning to get rid of that for a long time now”
“Well, see to it that you do. I’d hate to have to see you have a fashion disaster in front of all your friends”
“Yeah, that would be tragic”
“Alright, well everything looks to be in order; keep up the good work”
“Will do; thanks for stopping by”
“Oh, and don’t forget about that thanksgiving party I told you about a few days ago”
“Wouldn’t think of it; see you later” and with that, she was gone. I went over to the closet, opened it and saw him curled up in the fetal position. “What are you doing?” I asked
“My mom always told me the best way to hide is to make yourself look smaller like this”
“Well, she’s gone so you can get out of there now”
“Alright, cool. We pulled it off”
“Yeah, well let’s not throw on our party hats just yet. We still have to find you a place to stay. I’ll get a status report from Trevor tomorrow and see how he’s doing”
“Sounds good; now, if you’ll excuse me, these pigs won’t squash themselves” and with that, he went back to his game. The next day, I was in class when a man in a black suit walked into the classroom and whispered into the professor’s ear. He paused his lecture and called out, “is Van Hamilton here?” I raised my hand and he continued talking, “the president would like to have a word with you” no sooner had the words left his lips when people started oohing and pointing as if I was in trouble, “really, people?” I said, “You’re in college for crying out loud. Show a little maturity” I got up from my desk and followed the man in the black suit. As we were walking, I asked him, “so, nice weather we’re having, huh?”
“It’s been raining for the past three days”
“I know; I was just trying to be polite”
“Don’t feel the need to make small talk on my account”
“Got it” he led me to the president’s office where he told me to have a seat in one of the chairs whilst I waited. It couldn’t have been more than five minute before I was told the president was ready to see me. I walked into his office and saw him at the other end of the room, staring out the window as if there was a big monster truck rally right outside of his office. He didn’t turn around to face me but I could tell he had on his serious face and he spoke with deep authority in his voice, “Mr. Hamilton, please have a seat” he said without turning around. I did as he asked and he continued talking, “how are you today, Mr. Hamilton?”
“Fine, President Vaughn; what do you want?”
“It has come to my attention that there’s a homeless man who seems to have made himself at home here on this campus. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”
“What makes you think I would?”
“Well, it’s just that he’s predominantly been spotted hanging around the vicinity of your dorm and one student even claims to have seen him climbing out of your window”
“Well, it must have been a different window because I’ve never seen a homeless man on this campus”
“Well then I suppose you wouldn’t mind if we set up cameras facing your window, now would you?”
“Absolutely not”
“Mr. Hamilton, are you familiar with our housing rules and regulations?”
“I know the gist of it”
“The reason I ask” he said, turning around to face me, “is people have been claiming that this guy’s been climbing out of your window and I’d hate to see lying and harboring unregulated visitors added to the list of charges against you”
“Well, since I’ve never seen him before, I have nothing to worry about”
“Whoever it is, he’s harboring this man”
“Maybe he’s protecting him; did you ever think of that? Maybe he had nowhere else to go and all he needed was a little compassion and friendship”
“Look, let me explain something to you.” He said, sitting down in the chair opposite me, “Here at this university, we make it a point to know everyone and everything on our campus and, much like foreign objects in the body, we serve as the antibodies to take down anything that is potentially harmful to the safety of this campus”
“Well, maybe this guy’s not potentially harmful to the safety of this campus; did you every think of that?”
“Well, obviously we don’t have any hard evidence so we can’t hold you for questioning against your will but, if I find out you are in any way affiliated with this guy, it will be the last thing you ever do on this campus. Do I make myself clear?” he said, standing up
“Good; you are dismissed” and with that, I left his office and went back to my classroom.  After class, I went to talk to Trevor, “hey, man, how’s the search coming?” I asked, “Well” he said, “I found this one place that’s willing to take him. The only thing is they want to interview him first just to make sure that this place is a good fit for him”
“Great; what is it?”
“Well, it’s called allied churches but it’s non-denominational. It’s about ten miles from here and somewhat of a small shelter but there’s a lot of heart there and they are actually looking to expand a bit”
“Nice; so what’s the next step?”
“Well, they want us to bring him in next Sunday for an interview and, assuming all goes well, he can move in by next week”
“Thanks, man, you’re a life saver. The president’s already breathing down my neck about this so the sooner we can get him out of here, the better”
“Alright, well I’ll text you more of the details later. In the meantime, just keep him out of sight, ok?”
“I’ll do my best”
“Great; see you later” and with that, he was gone. When I got home, I found him looking out the window, “oh man, an eagle just ate a squirrel” his voice echoed through the room as I walked in, “hey, dude, listen we need to talk”
“Is this about the toilet paper incident?”
“No, I was going to talk to you about…wait, what toilet paper incident?”
“Uh, nothing, you were saying?”
“Have you been going outside while I’m in class?”
“Well, sometimes I get cabin fever being in here all day all by myself and I already beat angry birds space and star wars”
“Ok, I get that but people have spotted you and reported it to the president so I need you to keep a low profile. If you have to go outside, at least try to blend in with the other students”
“Dude, no offense but I’m pushing thirty five here. I think that ship has sailed”
“Ok, well then at least try to blend in as a professor”
“You really think I can pull that off?”
“Sure, just grab a suit from my closet and call yourself Professor Hamilton. No one will know the difference but, if anyone asks, you’re not related to me”
“Got it”
“And don’t go out your way to talk about smart stuff. Professors can spot that bologna from a mile away”
“Alright, anything else?”
“Yeah, one more thing; can you try to keep your voice down? Some of my neighbors are starting to think I’m gay, not that there’s anything wrong with that”
“I’ll do my best; now if you’ll excuse me, I want to see how the squirrel-eagle confrontation turned out” he looked out the window and exclaimed, “oh man, the eagle swallowed him whole. Man, you got to check this out”
“You know what? I’m good”
“Suit yourself but you don’t know what you’re missing”
“Based on your vivid descriptions of what’s happening, I think I do”
The next day, there was a knock at the door and I sent henry to hide in the closet. Behind the door was a man who couldn’t have been more than a few years older than me with jet black hair and two campus cops behind him, “Van Hamilton?” he asked me,
“Yeah; can I help you?’
“I’m Chris Daniels, head of the RSA”
“Nice to meet you; what brings you to our neck of the woods?”
“We have a warrant to search your room”
“Well, I assure you I have nothing to hide”
“Well then you won’t mind if we just take a look around then, will you?”
“Of course not”
“Thank you” as they searched my room, I heard a sneeze coming from the closet. The next thing I knew, henry and I had become cell mates in the campus prison. I looked over to where henry was, “would it have killed you not to sneeze just that once?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Next time I’ll use the off switch on my nose”
“Alright, let’s not bite off each other’s heads here. We’re all we have” just then, the president came into our line of sight with a big smirk on his face, “well, I hate to say I told you so but I told you so”
“Look” I said, “President Vaughn, this is all just a big misunderstanding. He’s not here to shoot up your campus nor am I”
“Really? Then why is he wearing camouflage?”
“All his other clothes are dirty and he was in the army. He got an honorable discharge”
“Well, we’ll let the courts decide if that’s true” and with that, he left the holding cell. I groaned and looked up at the ceiling as I screamed, “Ugh, I can’t believe this is happening to me. All I ever wanted out of this experience was the three gets”
“What’s the three gets?
“Get some fun, get wasted and get laid”
“Nice, up top” he said, holding his hand up for me to high five. I decided to humor him and go through with it, “Thanks, man, I like to think it’s a pretty attainable goal during…alright, you know what? This is no time for high fives. We have to figure out how we’re going to get out of this”
“Well, what do you want me to do? Even if I could bust us out of here, we’ll be forced to go on the lam forever and we can only hide for so long”
“Well, for starters, you can stop with the negative attitude and will you quit playing that dang harmonica?”
“It’s prison tradition, man; everyone does it”
“Where’d you even get that thing anyway?”
“They give it to you when you come in”
“Ugh, this is not how things were supposed to play out. We were supposed to get you to the homeless shelter before anyone found you and I was going to go back to being an honors student with not a single blotch on my permanent record”
“Hey, how do you think I feel? I got no car, no house, no job, no money and, to top it all off, now I’m incarcerated with a cell mate who won’t stop criticizing me. I’ve hit rock bottom here. At least you have friends, family and a home”
“Alright, you know what? You’re right; I’m sorry”
“Thanks, man, and look; I know I screwed up and I’m sorry about that but I swear I’m going to find a way to get us out of here”
“Way ahead of you” said a voice outside of the cell. Just then, a student entered my line of sight, smiling as a guard came and opened the jail door “Trevor?” I said, “How did you know we were here?”
“Well, I heard about your arrest on the campus news and I came as soon as I could to explain your side of the side of the story”
“Yes, it seems you were telling the truth after all” said President Vaughn, who had just recently emerged from the shadows, “Seriously?” I said, starting to get mad, “You believe him but not me?”
“Hey, this man is the president of over three organizations on this campus and the former president of the SGA. Not to mention his parents have donated more money to this institution then you’ll ever make in your entire lifetime”
“Yeah, well I could be president of some organization if I had the time”
“Well, regardless, I was wrong so you’re free to go and I’m sorry about all the misunderstandings that went down here”
“Yeah, well you should be”
“I said I was wrong; don’t push it”
“Sorry, we’re leaving” and with that, I headed for the door but, before I left, I turned around and said, “hey, Trevor”
“No problem, man” and with that, we left.
A few days later, we brought him into allied churches for the interview. Lucky for us, everything went smoothly and, within a few days he was moving into the shelter. “So this is it” I said as the three of us stood there in the bunks, “you need help with anything?”
“Oh, you boys have done plenty for me already”
“Alright, well we hope you’ll be happy here” said Trevor, “and, remember, the object here is to help get you back on your feet”
“I understand and once again I can’t thank you boys enough for everything you’ve done for me”
“Oh, it was nothing really” I said, “I’m sure had any other upstanding citizen found you on that cross country course, they would have done the same thing”
“Oh, don’t be so modest. You deserve all the praise in the world”
“Really, it’s not a big deal”
“Well, listen, if there’s anything you boys need – anything at all – you know where to find me”
“Thanks, man and we’ll be sure to visit often as we can” I said as we headed for the door, “oh, and listen” I said before we left, “if you ever get bored with those playboys, I saw a woman out there that looks to be just your type”
“I’ll keep that in mind, thanks” and with that, we left.
A couple weeks later, I returned to allied churches with Trevor and found henry in the common room watching the panthers game, “hey, man” I said, “long time no see”
“Well, if it isn’t my good friends. What can I do for you boys?”
“Do we need a reason? Can’t we just be here to see our good buddy? Plus, with Christmas fast approaching, we got you a few presents”
“Oh, you didn’t have to do that; you’ve already done so much for me”
“Nonsense, I think you’ll like this” I tossed him a pair of keys and he caught it in his hands, “what are these for?” he asked
“Look outside” he went over the window,
“No way” he said as his face lit up, “you got me a Ferrari?”
“What? No, it’s the Volvo. We each chipped in for half of it”
“Oh, well that’s nice too. Thanks, boys”
“But wait; there’s one more”
“Oh, please, you’re spoiling me here. You’ve already done way too much for me”
“But this is the best present of all”
“Alright, I’ll bite; what did you get me?”
“Wait for it” I whistled with my fingers and a black Rottweiler with its tail wagging and tongue hanging out came bounding through the shelter. At the first sight of it henry, it bounded towards him, jumped on top of him and started licking, “you got joey back for me?” he asked, “but how?”
“Well, let’s just say money talks. It turns out your cynical ex-wife cared more about money than she did the dog”
“Oh, boys, I can’t even begin to repay you all the things you’ve done for me but there’s just one little hitch you seem to have overlooked. The shelter has a no pet policy”
“Way ahead of you; as you know, our campus has a no pet policy as well except for fish but Trevor here just so happens to live off campus and, as such, the rule doesn’t apply to him”
“So you’re taking him back?”
“Well,” said trevor, “he’ll about be about ten miles away and, now that you have a car, you can visit him as often as you want”
“Thanks, guys. If it wasn’t for you, I probably would have starved to death on that trail”
“Don’t mention it” I said
“I guess it is true what you said about this town, huh? It’s a small town but it has a big heart”
“And we wouldn’t have it any other way”
“Oh, I almost forgot; I got a little something for it too”
“Oh yeah, I think I heard you got a job landscaping at the university”
“Yeah, once they realized I wasn’t a terrorist or a spy from another country, they had no objections to giving me an interview. Now, I just started a few weeks ago so it’s not much but it’s just a little token of my gratitude for all your help.
“Oh, you didn’t have to get me anything”
“Are you kidding? After everything you’ve done for me, it was the least I could do” he handed me a small little mechanical device with the number zero on it, “oh” I said, “a pedometer?”
“Yeah, I remember you talking about how you were trying to shed a few pounds here and there so I thought this would help you reach your goal”
“Oh yeah; it’s great, henry, thanks”
“No thanks necessary. This is nothing compared to what you’ve done for me”
“Well, it’s still nice”
“Yeah, I got in on sale over at Walmart”
“Well, I appreciate the thought and effort you put into it. Now I should probably get back to school. We’re going to be heading home soon for the holidays”
“Alright, I’ll see you boys later and, hey, give my best to President Vaughn” he said, waving as we walked away
“Will do; bye” and with that, we left. Trevor went ahead of me and let joey into the car. The truth is I didn’t need the pedometer to feel compensated for what I did or even to work out on a regular basis. Just knowing that I helped another person turn their life around was enough for me. The truth is I never really knew much about homelessness and never really thought it was that big a deal until it started affecting me own life. Though, I have heard people say that it is the biggest tragedy in America. Anyway, realizing that my work here was done, I opened the door to the car, got inside, turned the key into the ignition and started off on my long trip back home, knowing all the while that his life would never be the same.

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