“My lifestyle dissolves fake smiles. It can be heartbreaking if you aren’t ready for it.”
Riel ’14, the wandering vagabond, surveys his options at the Usdan grill. Photo by Rachel Pincus ’13.
Two or three weeks ago, I entered my apartment around midnight to find the couch occupied by a bearded stranger. He was asleep, sprawled sideways and snoring loudly, and none of my housemates appeared within eyesight. As I reached over his torso to adjust the thermostat, I briefly considered dialing Public Safety. Instead, I located one of my housemates, Carey Gilchrist ’13, and whispered my demand: “Who’s that dude on our couch?”
“Oh, that’s Lina’s friend Riel,” Carey explained. “He sleeps in different places every night or something. So she offered him our couch.” “Oh,” I said. “Wait, that’s pretty awesome. Would he be up for an interview?”
Riel ’14, a junior majoring in Film and Computer Science, was gone from the couch by the time I awoke the next morning, but later in the week I ran into him in Weshop, where he was stocking up on eggs (“I gotta eat at least six a day, need the protein”) and canned beans. He explained that he had adopted something of a vagabond lifestyle at the beginning of the semester, crashing at friends’ places and refusing to make use of his assigned room in 1 Vine. “I’m trying to be the change I need to see,” Riel told me. On most days, he carries around a camping backpack and a sleeping bag. His lifestyle is controversial, but his reasoning has an oddly circuitous logic to it: If he’s already paying all this money for room and board, shouldn’t he be free not to use it?
I asked Riel if he would like to be interviewed for this blog. Sure, he said, just so long as I didn’t publish his last name or a picture of his face. And could he boil some eggs in my stove while we did the interview? I consented to his demands, as he did to mine. This is the conversation that took place.