INTRODUCTION
I feel bored (plictisit) quite a bit,” Tomas confided. We were sitting in a
patch of shade in the parking lot of Stefan’s Place. The July heat radiated
from above and off of the asphalt, making the humid air especially sticky.
Tomas, a stout man in his fifties, had been living on the streets since his
wife divorced him four years earlier. Since then, he slept in public parks,
the stairwells of apartment buildings, and the waiting room of the Gara de
Nord train station, among other places. When he could find construction
work, Tomas earned up to sixty lei (about $18) per day off the books.1 This
was not one of those days. Instead, Tomas sat with me for lack of anything
better to do. Gazing at the floor just ahead of his feet, Tomas continued, “I
feel bored when I think about the kind of life that I have to live here in Ro-
mania. I mean, it’s an ugly life on the streets. You have neither perspective
nor peace of mind. You look at your watch and see that night is coming, and
you wonder, ‘Where should I go?’ ‘What should I eat?’ ‘Who can I sit and
talk to?’” Tomas looked up from his feet and around the parking lot. About
a dozen men in the twilight of their work trajectory were scattered about.
Some slept along the fence line. Others sat on the curb of the driveway
reading the tabloids. A handful spoke quietly on the stairs that led to the
clinic inside. All looked firmly anchored in place. “I mean, at times I just
feel useless,” Tomas added with a heavy sigh as he returned his attention to
the space just beyond his feet. “I think to myself, ‘Why should I go on liv-
ing?’ There is nothing for me to do here that makes me happy. I don’t have
money in my pocket to buy something to eat or anything else that I might
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