Tough City

In Waiting for Nothing, The Travel Habit Fall 2014 by Freddy Leiva0 Comments

Tom Kromer’s Waiting for Nothing is a very touching and dark work. The story centers on the idea of ‘never losing hope’ but instead serves to shine light upon the powerless position of the working class. The style used to narrate the character’s day-to-day experiences is very powerful and really positions the reader in the shoes of a beggar. I couldn’t help but visualize myself in many of the situations in which he would force himself to ask for food. The phrasing he uses is very evocative and elicits many strong emotions. At times I could feel how uncomfortable the situation was turning for him, I could feel the anxiety starting to build, the judgmental stares destroying whatever was left of his confidence, his face building red and sweaty. Regardless of the story taking place during the great depression, experiencing this story in such a way reminded me of our homeless people nowadays and the treatment they have to go through.

I really enjoy the way he constantly repeats phrases, often times saying things that contradict whatever he previously said. There are many scenes in which the narrative almost exists in two worlds at once, for example when he meets Mrs. Carter and he is constantly repeating that a “stiff has got to eat”. The chapter when he meets Mrs. Carter is very intense and depressing. “I am ashamed of all this. I am sick to my stomach, I am so ashamed of all this. What can I do? What am I doing is all I can do. A stiff has got to live. (51)” This quote happens right before he gets into bed with Mrs. Carter. I can’t imagine how low and desperate you must have to feel to go against your sexuality and whatever you believe in, in order to survive. When they are walking to his apartment he is constantly saying how he would beat up anyone who dares to call him a queer, and how he can’t stand the thought of people thinking he might be a queer as well. The author does a great job in making the reader understand and most importantly feel the despair the character is going through. There is a slight hint of hysteria coming from his words, which isn’t surprising at all based on what he has to go through on a daily basis.

I do often wonder about what the life of a homeless person is like, how they got sucked into that lifestyle, where their family is, etc. But becoming desensitized to this issue happens relatively quick and easily in NYC. Often times when he would go up to beg to people they would reply asking why didn’t he got a job instead, this is something I’ve personally witnessed in NYC, but never really stopped to think about it. The stories in the book completely reshaped how I feel about the homeless population. I’m usually in a rush racing through the sidewalk and whenever I am approached for money I say, “sorry never have cash”, which is true about 88% of the time—good luck squeezing cash into a card holder. The story made me want to take a more different approach to these situations, not sure if necessarily giving them hella money, but maybe directing them towards help or start initiatives where people can get more involved.

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