THE TIME OF MY LIFE IN CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

  By Alex Lomeli, 2004

    When I was seventeen-years old, my best friend invited me to participate in an extensive summer program focusing on English as a second language at the University of Chicago .  Up to that point we hadn’t had the chance to venture outside our hometown in Guadalajara , Mexico let alone travel to the U.S.A. Efrain asked me if I wanted to be his roommate; he told me that his uncle Joe owned a big house in Chicago and he was willing to let us stay there for free.  This was a perfect opportunity for me to leave all my parents' quarrels behind me for good.  I wanted to go and experience the world and perhaps, I would get the chance to experience the time of my life!  There is a saying “ Be careful of what you wish for because you may get it." Soon after I would find out the meaning of this saying.

 After accepting the university’s invitation, I got my parent’s blessing, and two weeks later Efrain and I were on our way, flying across the vast blue Mexican sky.  We were making all kinds of plans.  We talked about the endless opportunities we would soon have in America .  Soon after our arrival in Chicago , we found out how difficult things were going to be for us.

           After we unpacked our luggage the following morning, I had a chance to talk to Efrain’s uncle Joe. He told me he was the only one working, and he was supporting a family of ten, he went on and on, saying he was having financial difficulties.  Suddenly, a big red light came on in my head! That was the clue for me; I knew then something was wrong.  Then he said, “Alex I’m sorry to tell you that I can’t afford for you to stay here with my family.” At that moment I felt that my whole world would collapse. I couldn’t believe what he was saying. He told me that I could only stay at his house for one week.   He then gave me a choice, either to call my mom so she could make arrangements for me to go home or find some other place to live. The following week I decided to move out even though I didn’t know anybody else in town.  So I packed my luggage and I was on my way to the unknown.  I walked around the neighborhood aimlessly for a while. On one of the side streets I spotted a junked car that seemed as if no one had used it for a long time. That car became my home for the next few months.

              During those hot summer months, I had a lot of time to reflect on my childhood; I understood how unkind I was to my mother while I was growing up.  There were times when my mom would cook a wonderful meal and I would be such a jerk to her.  I would tell her, “Mom this food is not good! It’s too cold or it’s too hot.” I was always complaining. I remember one occasion when my mom got very upset at me. She told me how ungrateful I had become and told me the following, “Someday, sooner or later, you may wish you could eat this food and you are going to be sorry.” Sure enough that day came a lot sooner then I had anticipated. I was feeling so bad for my behavior that the next day I decided to call my mother to apologize. I told her how sorry I was for all those times I was so ungrateful to her.  After the summer was over I had lost so much weight that I was down to about one hundred and ten pounds. I was hungry, lonely, and very dirty. I had thought by now that I would be having the biggest adventure of my life, but how wrong I was! It was an adventure all right, but not a pleasant one.  The following months got even worse, my house on wheels got towed away and along with my luggage.  So now I had no more shelter and no more clothes.  I was feeling very low. In fact, I had never felt so bad in my whole life. Winter came and so the adventure continued.

         After my mobile home was taken away from me, I was forced to look for a new shelter or the equivalent of one. As I began wandering the streets, I spotted a tree house not far from where I used to live. It was located on the corner of Nineteenth Street and Cicero Ave. After inspecting my new home, I realized that there were a few problems: it had no roof and one of the walls was missing. On my first night I was able to gaze at the stars up above. I had an unobstructed view to the vast universe. While I was enchanted looking at the beautiful night, God felt pity on me and let me view his creation from a different perspective. All the stars started moving in sequence.  They all appeared to me like a movie was playing right before my eyes. I understood then that God was real. The long night went on and the minutes became hours, and in the cold of the night my body  temperature dropped so low that I fell unconscious. I woke up the following morning in a lot of pain. My whole body was black and blue, almost as if someone had taken a baseball bat and used it on me. One morning, during the harsh winter months a Godly woman woke me up; she was screaming frantically, “You are about to fall from the tree!” After about a minute or so I was able to regain consciousness. She asked me, “ Why are you sleeping up there?” I couldn’t understand what she was saying. Fortunately nearby there was a bilingual Hispanic man. He helped translate what she was saying to me. I told her that I was homeless and this was my home. Again the good almighty God had pity on me. The kindhearted women offered me a job; she managed the apartment complex across the street from my tree house. She asked me if I would want to become the maintenance person for that building. In return she offered me a free apartment and a small salary. I couldn’t believe what she was saying. I was so thankful I started crying. To top that; she told me she had a son about my same age and she offered to bring me some of his clothes that he no longer used. I was so thankful.

          In conclusion, it has been twenty–three years since I wished for the time of my life. I can now see that my wish surely came true in more ways than I could ever have hoped for. As I look at my life today, I can see that God taught me a very important lesson early in life. Nowadays, I have a beautiful home, an excellent job, and a wonderful family.