When I finally got out on the street everything seemed strange. Everyone was speaking a different language. The sidewalk and street layout was different. In Saudi Arabia there is no cross walk – you just cross the street wherever – so I thought it was the same here and I tried to cross. An older woman yelled at me because apparently I was trying to cross in the middle of the street.
Eventually I heard people getting on a bus and decided to just get on it. A half hour later I heard people getting off the bus and I got off. I got on another bus and rode it for an hour.
When I got off the bus I smelled grass and coffee. I thought it was probably a park and I’m a big fan of coffee so I decided that this is where I would stay. I got a coffee and then went to the park and slept there that night. I had never experienced homelessness before, I lived a relatively comfortable life in Saudi Arabia.
I knew I had to eventually take a shower. The next day I discovered there was a gym right next to the Starbucks so I signed up, showered and put my stuff into a locker. I did this for the first month. Then two months. I spent my days in the local public library learning English and my nights sleeping in the park.
When I first started reading books I literally had to look up every single word. But eventually I learned about verbs and adverbs. How to create correct sentences. Whether the noun or verb goes first in a sentence. Sometimes I would go hungry for days or weeks. But through it all I had a purpose and an endless vision.
The third month passed and then the fourth. I was just sitting on the grass trying to make sense of everything. I was reflecting on my life – both past and future. What I wanted out of life. I was confused and didn’t understand why I had to go through all of this. Why do I have to endure so much pain? Why don’t I have a place to live? Why don’t I know anyone? Why can’t I even speak with people to connect resources? I was wrestling with all of those things in my mind. I didn't have anyone to tell me everything would be okay. (My family didn’t even know I was homeless – I texted every two or three days to tell my parents I was doing great so they wouldn’t be worried).
One day in my fourth month of living in the park an individual approached me and said hello. By that time I could speak in very broken English. He told me he was a student there.
“What is here? In the park?”
“No – this is a park on the UCLA campus.”
That's when I realized I had been sleeping on the UCLA campus for four months.
The person resumed talking and he told me his ethnicity was Japanese but that he had been born in Saudi Arabia and spoke Arabic! I hadn’t spoken Arabic in four months! I just got up and hugged him. He wasn’t startled by me because I was a very fashionable, clean homeless man! He approached me because he always wondered who the well-dressed individual in the park with the luggage was…
We got to know each other and he said he was a student at UCLA looking for a roommate. I told him I would be willing to pay rent for two months. After the first month I told him I was sorry but that he’d have to find another roommate. I didn’t have any money left.
“I love you.” He said. “But I get housing from the government and I can’t afford to pay for you.”
“I know. I would never let you pay my rent even if you could.”
“Where are you going?”
“I don’t know.” I said, “But I'll be safe…”