Cardboard Hilton My Travels as a Paranoid Schizophrenic in the 21st Century
The cold wind rattled the walls as I curled up in my makeshift blanket of plastic and newspaper; the Sunday Chicago Tribune pages strewn over my ruddy torn blue jeans. The plastic lay over the newsprint to keep the water out and my unwashed clothes dry. Monday morning came late for me because of the rain and sleet that fell the night before had covered the roof and sides of my self imposed cell of cardboard from a Maytag refrigerator carton I found in a nearby dumpster.
I arose stiff and always hungry, that constant pang of hunger that stayed with me day in and day out. I grabbed a milk carton unzipped my pants and let a long stream of urine filling the container to the brim. I couldn’t take the chance getting caught pissing on a wall, the cops were always hassling me and I didn’t need anymore shit to happen. The last time the pigs busted my ass up and stole everything I owned; I wasn’t getting robbed by those pigs again.
My head ached; my eyes felt like cockroaches were gnawing at my eyeballs all night. The voice in my head was screaming in my brain, “Don’t let them cops get you!” “If you gott’a shit don’t let them see ya!” “If they do you gott’a fight’em, killem if you have to.” I knew the voice would go away if I just ate something; I kept a coffee can filled with odd stuff I found in back of the McDonalds, French fry’s from Mac’s kept forever so I collected them and put them in my coffee can for safe keeping. The bugs couldn’t get too them and I could eat them when I needed to.
The fry’s tasted hard and bitter, each strand of potato gleamed with the shine of 19 chemical preservatives that kept the food edible for weeks. I pulled a packet of salt out of the can and gingerly sprinkled each fry with a dose of sodium. My mouth would water with every bite I took, the smell of grease and three day old coffee grounds that I pulled the bag of fry’s from still lingered on each morsel.
I had a bottle of water handy to wash down each fry; the consistency of each fry was like eating plastic rubber. The taste lingered on my tongue an hour after I consumed them. The water helped a little bit, of course a Coke would have been better, but finding a full cup of Coke in the garbage bin was almost impossible.
Finished with my breakfast, I look out the flap of my hotel room to check the weather conditions, cold, snowy, and wet, looks like another day in paradise.
The voice in my head is whispering now, I can barely hear the nagging and complaining of my alter ego. It’s mumbling about the last shopping cart I had when two young men with baseball bats decided to play a game of bash the cart with me as the goalie. I hurt for a week after that little game, and that’s when the cops, those nice police officers decided to help me by throwing my stuff in the back of a garbage truck and toss me on my ass for protesting. Chicago cops are worse SOB’s alive they all deserve the same treatment a gun up their ass!
I carried my stuff in shopping bags now; nobody wants to look in a dirty bag. I can hide my money down in the folds of a bag where no shit head would ever look.
I buried my stuff in the sand over by the beach, carrying it around is a hassle; I put a brick on the spot where I dug the hole. Last time I did this someone moved the brick and it took me three hours to find the spot where I hid everything.
Monday’s are garbage day in Lakeview; I can find all kind of good shit that people throw out. Problem is no antique stores are open on Mondays; they don’t open till Wednesday’s so I got to find a place to stash my stuff that I can sell till then.
The used book shop is open everyday, Bob run’s the place, and he knows I can get him descent porn that I pick out of the cans. Once I found a first edition of Playboy and sold to Bob for $50. That was a good day for me. I used the fifty to stay two nights at the Arms Motel where I could sleep in a real bed with clean sheets and take a long hot bath while I watched TV.
I’m an expert picker, that’s one thing about that voice in my head, it leads me to garbage cans that have good shit in them, and the voice works every time. I’m drawn to a can just like a magnet, I pick through the crap and at the bottom I find gold.
Once I had to take a gold collar off a dead cat that was thrown in the garbage just like a piece of old meat. The collar was 14 carets gold; I got 75 dollars for it at the pawn shop. The cat couldn’t take it with it, so I took it.
Today I’ll start on Waveland and head west down the alley. I just walk, when the voice says stop and look I do. About two hours later I find a dead pile. Dead piles are rare finds, there shit the family threw out after mom or dad kicked off, and they didn’t know what to do with three centuries worth of crap except just toss it.
My voice is going crazy, “You better look faster, some one is bound to come and take it away from you.” Look in that box first! I find a jewelry box full of costume jewelry. Then I find a Mexican Silver bracelet and two gold rings with diamond chips on them.
The next box reveals dented silver bowls each with hallmarks on the bottom of them; four of those. Also in the same box is a mantel clock with a missing pendulum and a broken glass door; the winding key is right next to it. I find some new overalls which I try on over my pants. They fit all right. I find a couple of wool button up shirts which I snatch up.
The voice is going crazy now, “Hurry up before some one comes, and use that old suit case to pack everything in.” I had strewn everything into a mess all over the alley. All the boxes were emptied every bag was inside out.
This was a great haul! I new I could get a week in a motel with all the stuff I found in that dead pile. I was overjoyed; I triumphantly trudged home carrying my loot from my conquest.
I went into Dales Pawn shop and sold the jewelry and the bowls, I got a hundred dollars for everything. He didn’t want the clock but he took an old radio I found in the pile for another ten bucks.
I went to town that day, I bought food at the Jewel to last me a couple of weeks, mostly canned stuff like stew, and corned beef hash. I went to the laundry mat and washed what clothes I had, the rank was awful, the patrons at the mat weren’t to happy to be near me, I hadn’t bathed in two weeks, they thought I should have been dumped in the washer before my clothes.
I had enough to stay at the motel for three nights, leaving me with twenty bucks to spare. Wednesday I went to Mary’s Antiques and sold her the clock for twenty five dollars. As I walked out with my riches folded up in the pocket of my nice new overalls and wool shirt, those damned pigs drove up.
“Hey Rummy!” Come here!” I stopped and looked over my shoulder; the voice sprang into action “You talking to me asshole!” Kill these bastards! You know their going to fuck with you. The police officer grabbed my arm and tripped me onto my face. “Where did you steal all these clothes rummy?” The cops patted me down and pulled out my money. “So you been holding out on us ain’t you boy?” The cop stuffed the money in his breast pocket. Then the other cop kicked me in my head. I blacked out and the next thing I knew I’m laying in the back of a patty wagon, my head throbbing with a cut over my left eye.
I woke up in a drunk tank, my clothes were ripped and covered in my own blood. It was Thursday night at about six o’clock in the evening when they released me. No charges, no clothes, no money.
It took me four hours to walk back to the Northside back to the motel where I left my stuff the day before. The Motel manager threw out all my food and my clothes that I found three days before. He said check out was a twelve o’clock noon and you weren’t there to check out.
I went to the dumpster to see if I could retrieve my belongings only to find that the garbage truck picked up three hour ago. Three hours too late for me.
I found the brick on the beach, dug up my stuff, found my cardboard cottage rapped and old newspaper around me and began to cry. The voice in my head rambling on an on, Your nothing but shit, you should of stood up to those pigs, you should killem, killem good, kill all those fucking cops! I felt alone and afraid, waiting for the next day in paradise to arrive while I slept in my cardboard Hilton.
This story wrote is fiction, many things in the story actually happened in my life as an undiagnosed Paranoia Schizophrenic back in the 1980’s. 1982 I quit drinking and taking illegal drugs I went to AA meetings in a haze. I like being noticed, I like the feeling of having notoriety and fame for outrageous behavior that would scare people and amaze them at the same time. I would find out 35 years later through therapy that my deepest need was to get my Fathers love and admiration; instead I stole other people’s identities and cultures making them my own. Too often I would get caught with the goods and I would disappear finding another place and people I could con to get what I needed. I’m not proud of myself and my inauthentic past, I didn’t care about me or anyone else until I met my best friend and wife of 16 years. She cares for me still, she reminds me that I am loved and honored by her when no one else is feeling loving or friendly. I’ve made enemies and friends during my 56 years of living out my fantasies through visions and voices. I am working on my childhood sexual abuse as I write this that has caused me to be sexually dysfunctional for my entire life since I was 7. I have done a lot of work on my abuse and the people I have abused in the past because of my anger and deep shame about my body. The pain is evident because I weigh 500 pounds and I can’t seem to feel any joy only sexual addiction in place of love. I am luckier than most, my mental illness is manageable today because of my support networks, my love from my wife and her family, and my deep desire to live my life becoming unconditional and living in the here and now. At least my mind is no longer boxed up in a Cardboard Hilton; I know this because writing this is tearing open my box. With medication and support I am able to move freely without drawing attention to me or my family. I do love to write. I through my stories can share a bit of me in my visions and voices.