In 2008, when the banking crisis and ensuing recession happened, there were all these stories in the news about people suddenly losing their homes. People who’d had lives and families to support suddenly had no place to live. Thousands of people were being laid off. It was scary. And I just thought, what if I was one of those people? What if I’d had a steady job and a place to live and one day it all disappeared? What would I do? A friend and I resolved that we’d live in people’s homes during the day while they were out. I jotted down this absurd idea in my journal, as a loose premise for a short story. Three years later, it evolved into “1426 Chelsea Street.”
I think it’s quite possible that there are homeless people in our very midst who we don’t even recognize as such. Perhaps hungry, perhaps with children, perhaps trying to uphold the illusion—to others as well as themselves—that they’re doing fine. A dignified and otherwise normal man or woman in a coffee shop, on a bus, occupying your house while you’ve been fortunate enough to retain your respective employ. (Okay, maybe that last bit is a stretch, but isn’t that why we tell stories?)
While I did take a light-hearted approach to a heavy subject matter, I still wanted to conjure resilience, hope, discovery, and belonging through Bob’s story. And also identify what I think of as sort of a homelessness of the heart. I wanted to say…well, I wanted to say a lot of things. But one of them was this: for some people, home is a place to live, or having a dad, or being in love, or a cup of coffee and a good book. Home can manifest in various ways. But whether it’s physical or intangible, we all need to have one of our own in order to survive.
– Alanna Brown