I took this photo about a week ago whilst waiting to meet a friend at a downtown bus stop. It was a bitterly cold evening and I had noticed the warm and inviting light in the windows, high up above in a bourgeois apartment block. There seemed to be nothing special about those warm windows at the time, yet I was somehow driven to walk over the street and take a photo of them because they reminded me of something. What had I been reminded of? I had no idea at the time. It was just a feeling.
It wasn’t until I uploaded the photo to the computer two days ago and looked at it full-screen-and-lifelike that I realised exactly what that something I had seen reminded me of. It was this…
If you happened to be looking at my apartment block from the the other side of the street at this very moment (it’s 2am here) you would be looking at the lights in my apartment. Similar lighting, in a similarly well-appointed apartment block. On a similarly cold night. Warm and comfortable tones of light in the warm and comfortable apartment of a man who does not lack any material comfort.
It hasn’t always been like this though. I came to Lyon looking for work almost twenty years ago after separating from my girlfriend down in the south just as winter came on, and as I had no connections here at that time I was homeless on arrival. That’s why I lived on the railway station for three months with other homeless people. We lived on the station during the day to stay warm but had to sleep in the streets after the witching hour of midnight, when we would be evicted.
The problem with sleeping outside in winter though is that you can freeze to death if you sleep too long if you’re weak or old. I was neither weak nor old but although not particularly vulnerable I would nevertheless prefer to walk around the streets until the early hours to keep myself warm. Just in case. Besides, I caught up on that lost sleep during the day on the benches in the relative warmth of the station.
And as I walked aimlessly around the empty streets of this beautiful city during those dark and peaceful nights I would often look up at windows into rooms like that, and dream of sleeping in one of them…….
(This post is dedicated to the many other homeless and other people I met at that time who knew what ‘caring for others in adversity’ means. They are wonderful people and may they all be well…..)