2012 – January, February

2012
19 January 2012
This morning, in the freezing cold, Joy was huddled in a sleeping bag with only her face showing. Her feet were nearly frozen from sitting on the sidewalk for two hours. She’s been in hospital for the past two months due to epileptic seizures. She’d cut back on her medication because she wasn’t having any symptoms, then the seizures hit. Her doctor has upped her meds, now she feels “spinny”.She didn’t have a pleasant time in hospital, in fact she went AWOL. The nurses tried to get her to stay, but she’d had an altercation with a woman. Joy said, ‘Either I’m out of her, or I’m going to hit her. In which case I’ll be going to jail and she’ll be in my hospital bed.’
Tuesday, Joy was scheduled to appear in court due to Jake having assaulted her. Jake plead guilty, but they didn’t tell her until she appeared in court. She was in a wheelchair She wonders what kind of a deal they offered Jake. She’s not overly concerned as long as he’s out of her life.I spoke to Joy about the possibility of writing a story about her and her friends. She thought that was a great idea. We’ll talk more about it tomorrow.
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20 January 2012
I walked to ‘the benches’ in Moss Park that Joy had described to me. Joy was standing at the edge of a group. When she saw me coming she said, “This is my Dennis. He’s solid, so nobody give him a hard time. If they do they’ll have me to deal with. Dennis, tell them what you told me yesterday about writing a book.”
I said, “I’ve known Joy for over a year now. We often sit together at the corner of Parliament and Queen, before I go to work. I’ve seen a little of what she goes through with the general public, the comments that are made as she’s panning, the dirty looks, that sort of thing. I’d like to write a book  from the point of view of homeless people. Since I don’t know anything about that situation, I’d like to talk to each of you. What would you guys like the general public to know about your situation?”
“I’ll talk to you.” said Darren. “First of all we aren’t ‘you guys’, we’re not a group, we’re individuals. We come from different places, different backgrounds, in some cases different tribes. Some of us don’t even like each other, but we congregate here to have a beer, smoke a joint, to be with others who don’t judge or verbally abuse us. We accept everyone here as they are.
“I was born on Cape Breton Island. My family are Mi’kmaq, we call ourselves the Red Earth People. In the small town where we lived the Roman Catholic priest was the most important man in town. Whenever there was a big decision to be made, he was the one who made it. My mom and dad were drunks. The priest decided that they weren’t capable of raising three children, so do you know what he suggested? He suggested that we be split up and adopted by white families. I was sent to Boston. My brother and sister were sent out west, somewhere. I remember, being six years old, sitting under the front steps where we lived and crying my eyes out. Why would he have us split up like that? Does that make sense to you?
“My adoptive parents weren’t bad people. They didn’t beat me. I went to good schools, then college. In the 1990’s I joined the marines and served two terms in the Gulf War. I was with the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade. When I returned I got a good job with ACDelco, you know, the automotive parts place. I was married with two kids. My wife and I seemed to be getting along well, then I got a call at work from my son. He was crying. I rushed home, the two kids were sitting on the front step. I went inside and found two men with my wife in the bedroom. One of the guys backed off, said he didn’t want any trouble. The other came after me. I ended up with a broken leg. A week later, I was on the freeway, driving back from the hospital, when a semi changed lanes right beside me. My car got caught in the undercarriage of the truck. The roof was ripped clean off. I was in hospital six months. Nearly every bone in my body was broken. My face was cut from the broken windshield. The scars are faint, but you can still see them, almost like a spider web. My wife took off with the kids. The last thing she said to me was, ‘You can kiss my fat ass.’ I guess I fell to pieces after that, got hooked on pain pills, became an alcoholic. Now, here I am.

 

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1 February 2012

Today was a learning experience. The weather was what the meteorologists called “freezing fog”. I walked to ‘the heater’ where I saw Chester and a woman. Chester, I’d  met the previous day, the woman I had seen, but we hadn’t been introduced.

Chester said to the woman, “Debbie, this is … What did you say your name is?”

“I’m Dennis.”

I shook Chester’s hand then extended it to Debbie. She withheld her’s and said, “What are you doing here?”

“I’m here to visit friends. I was hoping Joy would be here.”

Chester was very friendly and talkative. The previous day he hadn’t said a word. “He’s solid, Debbie, he was here yesterday talking with Ian.”

Debbie noticed the cloth bag I was carrying; on it was  printed The Good Shepherd . She said, “There was a man who was barred from ‘The Bad Shepherd’, The Salvation Army and the Mission. The temperature was minus forty degrees. No place would let him in. He froze to death standing up, leaning against the brick wall of the Shepherd.”

“Why was he barred?” I asked.

“It doesn’t matter why he was barred! Nobody should be forced to freeze to death!”

“I agree.”

Chester, in a kindly voice, broke the awkward silence, “Cathy and I have been friends for a long time — on the wagon and off. I was sober for 10 years. That’s when I was with Epeelee, an Inuit woman. When she died four years ago I fell off the wagon.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” I said.

“I don’t like your voice!” said Debbie.

“I’m sorry,  I won’t talk.”

“It’s not your voice I don’t like, it’s the tone. It’s clinical and condescending.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to come across that way.”

Chester went on with his stories. He mentioned where he lived, that he likes British Columbia pot, that he used to be a drug dealer.

“Chester, don’t give away personal information.” To me she said, “I don’t like you!”

“Would you like me to leave.” I said.

“Yes!”

“Goodbye, Chester. Goodbye Debbie”

Today I learned that even the agencies whose sole purpose is to help the poor, the destitute and the homeless can be seen as the enemy. I learned that I will always be an outsider to homeless people. I haven’t had their experiences. I don’t blend. I am humble. I only want to help, but those who don’t know me may not always see that. I must show more sensitivity. Tomorrow, I hope to have a more positive experience, but I have learned from today

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2 February 2012

Today, the sun was shining. Temperature was  minus five degrees Celsius (twenty-three degrees Fahrenheit). Ice sculptures were on display outdoors at the park. At ‘the heater’ (or ‘the wall’) were Shakes, Ian, Trudy and Philip.

I asked Shakes how he was doing. He replied, “I’ll be great once I get this drunk on.”

I talked to Ian about his birthplace, Bella Bella (also known as Waglisla), on Campbell Island. I had researched it on the Internet.

“Yeah man, It’s grown since I’ve been there, but it’s beautiful. That’s God’s country out there. The only way in is by boat or plane. The ferries may run there, but I’m not sure since that one tipped over a few years back.

“When I was a kid we used to have races, through the forest for a mile or so, around things, over things, under things, through the swamp then swim the last part. I was fast. We really had fun.”

Trudy, ‘Mom’, mentioned that she had visited Andre in the hospital yesterday. ‘Mom’ is very sweet and motherly looking with shoulder length white hair.

“He doesn’t look good. Besides the heart attack he has pneumonia. He has a nurse twenty-four hours a day, sitting at his side. She told me all the details of his condition. He died twice, but they brought him back. He’s got tubes coming out of everywhere and one down his throat because he can’t breathe on his own. He looks like a robot. They have him in an induced coma. They want to bring him back slow.”

“I had double pneumonia one time.” said Shakes. “That’s really bad. You can die from that. My martial arts trainer was with me. He gave me a shot of whiskey every hour.

“I took karate, taekwondo, kick boxing and boxing. I knew that stuff even before I went to the pen.”

“I have a red belt in jiu jitsu.” said Ian as he took my wrist and elbow putting it in a position where he could either throw me or break my arm. “My hands are considered weapons. Even these steel toed boots are considered weapons. The police told me that. They could see the yellow markings on the sides.

“A friend got me these boots, he said if you ever need boots let me know. I went to him and the next day he brought me these. They cost $300 and they’re really warm.

Philip, a large man with a beard, reached into his back pack and pulled out two small gift boxes and a heart-shaped tin of chocolate covered toffees. He gave them to ‘Mom’.

She opened the boxes and showed everyone. In the first box was a necklace with a silver pendant and two stud earrings with pink stones. In the second box was a necklace with a black rectangular stone.

“Philip!” she said, “How long have you known me?”

“Six years, maybe.”

“In all that time didn’t you notice that my ears aren’t pierced? I guess now I’ll have to have them done.

“I’m going to the “Shep” (The Good Shepherd) soon to get my meds. My worker had them sent there.

Ian  said to Philip, “You’re barred from there aren’t you?”

“I’m barred for life. I hit two staff. They reported me and I was sent down for sixty days. I’m up on another charge coming to court soon. I hit someone. I don’t know who. I was drunk.”

Trudy asked “Has anybody got a comb. I’ve gone three days without combing my hair.” Philip reached into his backpack and pulled out a comb. “That’s my comb, Henry! Now go easy, start from the bottom and go up.  I’ve got a lot of tangles.” Philip gently combed out Trudy’s shoulder length, white hair.

“Trudy, I went to your place the other night, but you weren’t there. I had five bottles of wine with me, so I just stayed there and got pickled. Do you know that your building was raided? If your room mates have any needles laying around you could get arrested just for being there. I don’t think you should go back.”

At that point Juanita arrived with two litres (quarts) of Molson Ice Beer.

“Where’s Andre?” she questioned. “I came all this way to see him and he’s not here.”

“Don’t you know that he’s in hospital?” said Philip, “I was with him when it happened. We were at McDonalds. We had cheese burgers and each of us had a bottle of wine with us. We drank it out of McDonald’s cups. Then Andre just slumped over in his chair. Somebody called an ambulance.”

Trudy said to Shakes, “I had a couple of joints earlier, but I could really use a drink. Will you give me a drink?”

“Not now, maybe later.

“Shakes!” said Ian, “If you don’t give ‘Mom’ a drink now, I won’t give you a drink later.” He pulled a bottle of Imperial sherry from his backpack. To me he said, “We always share with everybody. I don’t know what’s gotten into Shakes.” He passed the bottle around and we each took a swig.

“Very good!” I said, “This is what you were telling me about the other day.” (Medium amber colour; aromas of walnuts, caramel and figs; sweet and creamy along with flavors of brown sugar. Has a slightly impetuous bouquet. I can imagine it served with pecan pie.)

Irwin opened a bag of Cheesies and offered some to Judy “Are you crazy! You’ll ruin your buzz. I’m trying to hang onto my stone. I’m not going to ruin it just because of munchies.

“I’m allowed back on Jarvis Street now. I was banned for six months. I haven’t been causing any trouble. I just get drunk. I woke up at Bernice’s place and asked her if I had any money. She checked and said, I still had fifty bucks. That was a relief!”

It was time for me to get back to work, so I excused myself, said my goodbyes and to Ian, “Maybe, I’ll see you tomorrow.” He shook my hand and we parted.

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3 February 2012

I can only describe today as unbelievable. I was expecting to meet with Ian at “the heater”, so I stopped by the liquor store to buy his favorite, Imperial sherry. He had shared with me, so I felt it only fair to share with him.

I walked to ‘the heater’ — it was deserted. I walked to the park benches — also deserted. I started heading back along Queen Street towards work when I saw a slim, beautiful woman waving at me. I can only describe her as “drop dead gorgeous”. I turned around to see if there was someone behind me that she was waving at. She called out, “Dennis!”

The woman’s hair was dark in a stylish pixie cut, teased and gelled in the latest fashion. She wore a fitted tweed jacket, slim jeans, designer sunglasses and tasteful makeup. I wasn’t wearing my glasses, but when I came closer I realized it was Joy. I said, “You look beautiful! You sure do scrub up good!”

“Well, don’t let anybody else know. I’m dressed like this for court. I appeared this morning and Frank pleaded innocent.

“I was called to the witness stand and said, ‘What do you want me to say? You’ve seen the video, the hospital reports, statements from people who saw me bruised and beaten with broken bones. What else is there?’

“Anyway, I have to go back at two o’clock. I don’t know what is going to happen.”

We went to the food court in the building where I work. I found an unoccupied table and asked Joy to wait so I could go to my office and get the get the pair of boots I had for for her from Goodwill. She had been complaining of having cold feet.

We had about ten minutes to chat before I had to go back to work. Joy had spent the last week in hospital for epileptic seizures, that she admitted were due to her drinking. She hadn’t liked the hospital food and had dropped to 123 pounds.

I also learned that the date of her birth is February twelfth, 1966. She looks surprisingly young for a mother of five. She was born in Scarborough, part of Toronto. Her mother was French, her father a mix of English and Ojibwa (Metis). “Especially because of my blue eyes, I’m often told that I’m not indian enough.”

I left her with the bottle of sherry. I don’t think I will ever be able to look at her the same way again. She is a true Cinderella story — emerging from behind a dumpster, in back of Starbucks, to the beautiful, confident woman she is today.

We’ll be meeting again Monday.

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8 February 2012

When I got off the bus this morning I was greeted by Metro and Two-four who hand out the free newspapers. “Good morning, Dale!” they both shouted (They never remember my name). “Joy’s here today!”

I was pleased since I hadn’t seen her in four days. I brought her toasted sesame seed bagel, steeped tea with one cream and three sugars.

“How’ve you been, Joy?”

“My legs are sore from fibromyalgia, apart from that I’m okay.”

“How did court go, Friday?”

“I don’t know what happened. I didn’t go back. That’s probably why my probation officer wants to see me this morning. I’m also A.W.O.L. from the hospital.”

“When you were living in Toronto you were married and had five children. Is that right? When did things start to go wrong for you?”

”Well I was living common law, but it wasn’t a happy time for me. I have five sons, the oldest, born in 1984, is now living on his own.  Second oldest was born in 1990, the others in 1992,  1996 and 1997. They’re all living with family. They all have my telephone number, but they don’t phone very often. I don’t interfere with their lives. They’re settled now. No point me barging in.

“Nothing was ever good between me and my common law husband. The second youngest saw his father come at me with a machete, no it was a hatchet! He chopped my leg!

“My life has always been messed up. My grandfather was a freak. My father was a freak. I got along really well with my mother, in fact she was my best friend, until I got into drugs. Then she threw me out. I’d finished grade eight and was fourteen at the time.

“When I started making good money she was friendly enough! I bought her a house. My boys thought of her as their mom, until she passed away. God bless her soul.”

At that point Chester arrived. I said hello to him. He looked at Joy and rubbed his thumb and fingers together indicating that he wanted money.

“I know, I owe Jacques money. This is the first time I haven’t paid him as soon as my check came in, but I was in hospital. I signed the check over to Roy, who deposited it in the bank. The landlord took the rent money out and there’s nothing left.

Chester said, “Niaut”.

Joy replied, “Niaut. That’s Inuit for good-bye.” she said to me.

“Jacques can wait for his money.”

Chester then walked away. I asked Joy if Chester was Inuit.

“No, he just seems to hang out with a lot of Inuit women. They go out together. He gets drunk and they “dig” (rob) him. I asked him if he ever gets anything. He said no. Next time he sees them, they’re all friends again. I can’t figure these guys. They’d be better off with a twenty dollar hooker.

“A couple of them have full blown HIV. Little Jake was drunk and his girlfriend threw him out. He passed out in the snow. Somehow he rolled over onto a “fit” (rig or hypodermic needle). That’s how he got HIV.”

It was time for me to leave, and Joy mentioned that she had to pee, so I walked her to the library. I noticed that she was limping.

“I didn’t notice you limping on Friday.”

“No, Friday it was okay.”

Joy said, “Don’t forget that Sunday is my birthday.”

“I remember, February twelfth. Will you be at ‘the heater’ later on?” I asked as we parted.

“No, after my meeting, I’m going home.”

At noon the sun was shining and the temperature was a relatively mild, minus two degrees Celsius (twenty-eight degree Fahrenheit). I walked to ‘the heater’ and noticed Ian and Chester I can hardly count Ian, since he was laying on his back, his head on his knapsack, sound asleep. I said to Chester He must have had a rough night.”

“He’s tired, that’s all.”

A large man with a big smile and a missing front tooth came over. Chester introduced him as Hippo

“Where you been, Hippo? I haven’t seen you for a long time.”

“I just got out of jail.”

“What for?”

“A Metro store. No more boosting for me. I just got out of jail today.”

“You got some money for me?”

“I already paid you fifteen dollars. There’s nobody around that I owe money to. Not until tomorrow, anyway.”

“I was just kidding, I know you paid me. You want to come to my house?” A. playfully kicked Hippo’s shin.

“No, I’m just going to hang out for a while.” Hippo walked to the stairs where other people were sitting. I could hear them talking and laughing.

“I came by bus downtown this morning and had breakfast at the Salvation Army. It was a good breakfast. Then I did my butt run, visited some friends — five people. I took the bus home, then came back here. See all the bus transfers I have.

“I think I’m going to have my last beer.” He opened a large can of Old Milwaukee. “I haven’t had any beer for three days.

“I was born in old Quebec. I’m 63 years old now and I’ve never been in hospital. I wasn’t even born in hospital. I was born at home. I nearly drowned though. My brother and I were swimming in a lake. I dove in and hit my head on a rock. I didn’t know where I was. My brother reached down into the water and pulled me up by my hair, otherwise, I would have drowned.

“I read cards, you know. My first wife showed me how. I read a lady’s cards the other day and I said to her, ‘Someone you love very deeply is sick. ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘my husband has cancer.'” Chester’s eyes welled up with tears. “I hate it.”

“You know Jacques? I read his cards once and I saw three deaths. There was Jacques, Andre and I can’t remember the third one. I don’t know how it happens, but I hate it.

“Soon, I’m going to go home, smoke a little weed and listen to 105.1, CHOQ- FM. They play nice music and have programs in French.  There are about four hundred thousand francophones in Toronto.

“You smoke a bit, I guess?”

“Not really, I mean sometimes. I have problems with paranoia, so it depends on who I’m smoking with; but yes, It’s nice to relax.”

“Friends are really important.”

“I agree, they’re the most important, sometimes. If we have friends we have someone who will help us make it through the day, and sometimes through the night.”

“Well I’m off now. I’m going to see my dealer. He has a big bag for me.”

I walked him to the corner.

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9 February 2012

This morning as I was walking along the sidewalk, approaching the spot where I usually meet Joy, I saw two feet sticking out from behind a concrete partition. Before I went to the restaurant for Joy’s bagel and tea I wanted to make sure it was her. Lately her visits have been sporadic and if she’s not there another person may take over her spot. I saw a head peek out, then go back. I walked closer. The head peeked out again, then I saw Joy’s smiling face and her hand waving. She had been playing peek-a-boo. She y had also been drinking.

“Do you like me better when I’m sober, or when I’ve been drinking?”

“Joy, I like you however you are.”

“I’m going to have to move. Roy and I had a big fight last night, mostly over his coke-head girlfriend. I could have had some last night, But I said, ‘No, thanks.’ What does that say about me? There is a word for it.”

“It says you have will power.”

“Jake will be out of prison in eight months. My parole officer said he was sentenced to eighteen months, but with time already served and time off for good behavior he could be out in October.”

A man stopped, pulled out his change purse and handed us each a quarter.

“Bless you, sir.” I said.

Joy said to me under her breath. “What does he expect us to do with this? Make a phone call? That’s what it costs now to use a pay phone. I couldn’t believe it.

“I miss my boys so much, and I miss my mom. I feel bad that I haven’t lived my life the way she wanted. She was happy though when I was making big money, even if it was illegal. I just want to talk to her.”

“You can Joy. Just talk to her. She can hear you. It’s not a question of being good or bad, right or wrong; but about choices and consequences. It was choices that brought you here. It was choices that brought me here.”

“Sometimes, I just scream at her. I don’t look like her or my father. I was the youngest of eleven children. I was born with blond hair and blue eyes; my sisters and brothers are all dark. I got a lot of abuse growing up, especially from my father’s side of the family.

“I asked my mom one day if I was adopted, or if I was maybe the mailman’s baby, or something. She said we found you in a cabbage patch. You sere so cute we decided to bring you home and keep you.

“I found out later that I was meant to be aborted. My father had the cash in an envelope. My grandfather slit it open and ran off with the money. He came back eventually.

“When I was two years old my grandfather took me out to the woodshed. There was a cross beam in the shed. He chained me, hung me from the beam, then he punched me and did things to me. It happened again when I was four, with my father and my uncle “Bugless”. His real name is Douglas. I hate him so much for what he did to me.

“One time my mother saw him coming and she told me to run as fast as I could.. I went to one of the tree forts we had built in the forest.

“I can get so cold sometimes. I just hate people, especially men. Why do they have to be so…?

“There’s a lot that can be said for dogs.” I replied, referring to a quote by Mark Twain.

Silent tears had been streaming down Joy’s cheeks, but she started laughing. “Now I can take care of myself. Since 1995 I’ve been taking kick boxing. The owner of the studio drives a Hummer to advertise his business.”

A lady stopped and offered both of us a chocolate chip cookie.

“Bless you, ma’am.” I said.

“She’s okay. I’m careful about what food I accept. There was one guy who used to bring me fruit. Fruit’s okay. I like fruit. One day he brought me a home-made muffin. After I ate it I felt a buzz like I’d had four hits of LSD. I was able to make it to the Sally. That was the only place I could think of to go. I was able to lie down and eventually it wore off.

“I miss my boys, but I can’t go back to Montreal. I have two outstanding assault charges against me. In 2007 I was pushing a carriage with my two babies in it. A woman ran by and dropped a plastic bag into the carriage. Before I could do anything one of the babies had the bag and was chewing on the corner. There was white powder all over his mouth. It was cocaine.

“The woman was running from the police. I caught up with her and beat her unconscious. Can you imagine, throwing cocaine into a baby carriage?

I mentioned that I had been to “the heater” yesterday and had a long talk with Chester I said that he was really a sweet man.

“He is sweet. All the women take advantage of him except me. I’ve been here thirty years. I’m not going to turn over a friend. He was drinking with Jacques one time and he fell backwards down fourteen concrete steps. He was in a coma for a while. His memory isn’t so good any more.

“He had a nice house off Parliament and he gets pension checks, so he always has money. Four of us were at The Prestige Hotel one time. They know me there, so everything was cool. Roland took Chester’s bank card to the beer store. He was gone in the morning and Chester’s account had been cleaned out. Some of them blamed me for it but Chester  said, ‘I know it wasn’t Joy. I saw Roland take my card.’ We haven’t seen him since, but he’ll be back in the summer.”

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10 February 2012

I nearly missed Joy this morning. I saw some feet sticking out from behind a concrete partition, so I went into the restaurant for her bagel and tea. When I came back she was gone. I asked Metro if he had seen her pass by. He said he thought she had entered the restaurant. I waited outside for what seemed a very long time, but eventually she came out.

“Are you stalking me?” she said with mock anger. “I see the way people — in there — look at me, like I’m some kind of scum.”

“Of course I’m stalking you. I have something for you. I gave her a poem written by a friend. When she started reading she said, “Oh, my God…… Oh, My God………Oh, my God.” Then the tears came. “All this from somebody I’ve never met. It’s so sweet. Thank your friend for me, and tell her I love her.”

I hugged her and she started sobbing into my shoulder. She looked up at me and said, “If you start crying, I’m going to kick you.”

I said, “My friend has been in some of the places you’ve been. She understands. There are a lot of people who love you.

“You’ve told me of the terrible things that were done to you, about the guilt you feel because you didn’t live your life the way your mother may have wanted, but that is the past, it’s gone, you don’t have to carry it with you. It doesn’t define who you are now.

“I know you’re worried about what will happen when Jake gets out of prison, but that is in the future. We never know what will happen tomorrow or next week. You don’t have to carry that either.”

“I still love Jake, but I can’t live with him.”

“It helps if you can forgive others who have harmed you, and forgive yourself. The only things you can control are what’s happening this moment. Have you ever tried meditation?”

“Sometimes, when I’m alone.”

“The next time you get a feeling of sadness or pain or frustration, just concentrate on breathing in and breathing out. Count your breaths. Look at what is happening in your mind and decide if there is anything you can do about it. If not, concentrate on what you see in front of you, what you smell in the air, what you are going to do next. Will you give it a try?”

“Yes.”

I hugged her again and said, “Happy birthday, Joy. There are lots of people who love you.”

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17 February 2012

This morning, when I brought Joy her tea and bagel, she said to me, “I was trying to get your attention before you went into the restaurant. Instead of breakfast I was going to ask you to buy me some bus tickets. I got a hundred and fifty dollar fine this morning for jumping the bus by the back door, without paying.”

“What are you going to do about the fine?”

“I don’t know. I can’t pay it. I still owe money to Jacques and he’s mouthing off about it. I won’t be able to pay him until my next check comes in. Roy owes me money for the rent. He’s staying with his new girlfriend, so I have the house to myself; well, with the dog, the snake and two lizards.

“I’ve got a sore back because Roy’s dog has been jumping up on me. He’s a pit bull. Maybe he’s missing his master. He’s been acting funny lately. I think it’s near time to have him put down. I’ll have to do it. Roy wouldn’t be able to.

“He has trouble going up and down the stairs. He’s no good around kids. He’s not even a good guard dog. It used to be that he’d bark when someone came to the door, now he just lays there.

“Daisy, one of the lizards, has been going crazy lately. I thought they were supposed to hibernate, or something, but not her. I threw her a handful of crickets and she was scurrying all over the place. She tries to get out too. That’s all I’d need.

“My Roy doesn’t have much in the way of street smarts. His friends, his poker buddies, all have real jobs. I have a real job. I sit on the sidewalk and greet people. I’m a greeter. I could work at Wal-Mart.”

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20 February 2012

How Dare You!

Am I not worthy
to be treated
as a human being,
more like yourself
than you would care
to admit?

Am I invisible,
will you not look
me in the eyes?
Must you look away
pretending
I don’t exist?

Am I not worthy
of common courtesy?
What is it that you despise
about me sitting here
humbly, silently
on the sidewalk?

How dare you judge me!
You don’t know my life!
I’ve done you no offense!
You treat me as detestable slime,
that you would scrape
from your boot.

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24 February 2012

I told Joy about meeting “Shaggy” and Wolf at ‘the wall’ the other day. She told me of her own experiences.

“I don’t know why he keeps that damned dog. Wolf, Shaggy, Andre and me were in the park, across the way, near the overpass. Andre had a container of chili from Wendy’s. We shared it and I fed some, with my fingers, to Shaggy. When we were nearly finished I tore down the sides of the container so Shaggy could lick the bottom. When I got up he bit me in the Achilles tendon. I punched him and he bit all the harder. I’ve been bitten by other dogs and it just left a bruise from their teeth, but Shaggy is the only dog that punctured my skin and caused me to bleed. I nearly had to crawl home after that. Whenever Shaggy is around he tries to bite me.

“Tom has found Antonio a place to stay. After Antonio was beaten, Tom bought him some clothes and arranged a room in an apartment for him. I looked after his cart when he was taken to hospital. Antonio normally hates enclosed spaces, but since the beating he’s happy to be locked inside where he is safe. He goes out occasionally, but not for long.

“I haven’t been to ‘the wall’ very much lately. I’m trying to manage my drinking on my own. I drink when I want to; not when it’s pushed in my face. I drank on Friday, but I haven’t had anything else until this morning. Right now, ‘I’m half in the bag.’

“My parole officer wants to get me into a home for women suffering from alcoholism, but first she wants me to attend an anger management course. I really don’t want to do that. It means three hours a day for six weeks. That really cuts into the time I have for myself. What are they going to do if I don’t take the course? Add to my parole? I’ve already got one parole violation because they didn’t tell her I was in hospital.

“I’m not an angry person! Look at me! I’m smiling. The only reason I was charged with assault was because Jake was beating me.”

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