It’s called institutionalization. An individual’s psychosis after being quarantined, pigeon-holed into a certain lifestyle for an elongated interval.
You might recall an infamous scene from Shawshank Redemption. An old man named Brooks receives his release from prison only to hang himself in his apartment. Right before he checks out of the new, scary world, he scribbles “Brooks Was Here” into a wood beam attached to the ceiling. It would later be joined by a notation from the cops, scribbled directly underneath stating “Brooks ain’t here no mo.”
Okay, that last part might not be true.
But, enough of the cinematic meandering for metaphorical purposes. I can throw all the allegorical evidence your way in an attempt to explain institutionalization, but why go through all that work when I can lean against the testimony of Terrance the Transient. That’s what I call him. He’s actually a (former) homeless man.
You see, Terrance spent the better part of his adulthood standing at a fairly popular street corner, begging for cash. He made enough to get by. His lifestyle, while pretty fucking far from fabulous, was consistent, stress-free, and comfortable – by Terrance’s standards.
That is, until a Good Samaritan stepped in, looking to help Terrance out. This individual, who shall go unnamed, observed Terrance doing his entrepreneurial thang for years. Terrance spoke to him in a way that other homeless men (and women) did not. Perhaps it was the faintest hint of an English accent Terrance had acquired through illegal broadcasting of BBC, we can’t be entirely sure. Regardless, this Samaritan decided once he had the means to do so, he’d lend Terrance a helping hand.
A few months back, he made good on that silent oath. Terrance was picked up and taken to a new, upstart neighborhood where a recently-built house had been purchased in his name. This Good Samaritan had furnished a home, furniture, and vehicle, giving Terrance a new lease on life.
Terrance was overwhelmed.
“All I wanted was a dollar, maybe five,” his quiet voice quivered, “I didn’t expect the man to give me a ride, let alone a house.”
Life must be quite grand for Terrance, right? Wrong.
It seems as though since acquiring a home, Terrance has lost his identity.
“I don’t know what to do with myself anymore…” The melancholy in Terrance’s voice subdued any semblance of burgeoning excitement from organisms within a thirty-foot radius. He stared through the back door windows, at his overgrown lawn.
“It’s like I’m…I’m not even me anymore,” his voice shook as he peered through the front door window, staring at his overgrown front lawn and trash can, which lay horizontal in the front of his driveway. An HOA notice was, no doubt, looming.
“I used to be Terrance the homeless guy at the corner of God and Bless. Now…now I’m a nobody…” he lowered his head, eyes glaring down at the dusty wood floor.
“Have you thought about reconnecting with some of your homeless brethren?” we asked.
“They won’t have nothing to do with me. They say I’m too good for them. ‘ohhh, look, there goes Mr. Homeowner, Terrance!’ I can’t stand it.” He collapsed into his leather sofa, a few pieces of food flew into the air upon impact.
“So, what do you plan on doing with yourself, Terrance?”
“I dunno,” he scratched the back of his head, dandruff falling into the sofa. “I heard there’s a pretty rad homeless society out in San Francisco. I may sell all this, pick up and head west…” his head turned, staring out the window, into the bright sky, “chase my dream of becoming homeless again.”
We cut the interview short. To be honest, the place smelt like sour milk and hairspray.
There's been no official word on what’s become of Terrance since the interview. Rumors state he’s been caught sleeping in his yard – front and back. A garbage man who handles his street has been heard bragging about how much lighter the refuse has been of late.
Whatever becomes of Terrance, we can only hope he reclaims some form of identity.