Archive for December 17, 2013


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16 December 2013

Last night was the coldest we’ve had this winter minus twenty-eight degrees Celsius (minus nineteen degrees Fahrenheit).  I didn’t see Ghislain, but his duffle bag was in his usual spot. I thought he must be nearby, so I waited. After a few minutes I saw him coming out of Tim Horton’s. He waved to me.

“Man, it’s a cold one, especially with the wind. I can only stay out about fifteen minutes at a time.”

I said, “So, I guess you slept at the Salvation Army last night.”

“No, I slept outside. See that building on the corner. There’s a parking lot behind that. I slept at the far end.”

“I don’t know how you managed,” I said. “I’ve slept outdoors when it was plus nine degrees. I shivered all night.”

“It wasn’t so bad. I have a warm sleeping bag. It was just the wind, especially at around three thirty. I think that was the coldest part of the morning.”

I asked, “When you sleep at the Salvation Army, do they get you up very early?”

“Yeah, around seven.”

“So, how was your weekend?”

“It was quiet. There aren’t many people downtown, they’re all at the malls.”

I had to get to work, so I said, “Goodbye, Ghislain, maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yeah, maybe. Joy might be here tomorrow. I don’t know.”


17 December 2013

This morning was the coldest yet. Numbers don’t give an accurate indication, but exposed skin freezes in ten minutes. Both Joy and Ghislain were out today. Joy was sitting on a box wearing an army parka, scarf over her face, drinking a large cup of tea.  Ghislain was standing, as usual.

“Hi, Joy, it’s good to see you. How are things going with Big Jake?”

“He’s starting to piss me off. He doesn’t get up until nine o’clock. I’m going to have to be out here every day until Christmas to get some money.”

“How are you doing, Ghislain? Did you sleep outside again last night?”

“Yeah, same place. I went to sleep about seven o’clock. At two-thirty I was freezing, so I went to Tim Horton’s for a coffee. I stayed there until I was warm.

” went to the Mission for lunch today. You know how they have the surveillance cameras and the guards posted at the door.They stopped this one guy, lifted up the back of his shirt. He was covered in bed bug bites. They wouldn’t let him in. I don’t know why they stopped him from coming in. It’s not his fault.

“Saturday I go to Rimouski to visit my brother and sister. I contacted Share Your Ride — have you ever heard of them? I got a good price. To go by bus costs two hundred dollars. It’ll be good to see my family.”

Joy was cold and had to leave. I walked with Ghislain to the corner. He wanted to get a newspaper, probably for warmth.

I said, “I didn’t have much chance to talk to Joy. Do you know how she and Jake are getting along?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t ask. I don’t trust that guy.  I never have. Maybe he’s okay, but I don’t trust him.”


15 December 2012

It’s Saturday. I visited Joy in the hospital, she’s been moved to the Ottawa General. I went to her room and and elderly woman said, “She may be in the sun room down the hall to your right, or she may have gone to the cafeteria, or outside to have a smoke, she may be anywhere.”

I thanked her and headed to the sunroom. I hardly recognized Joy. She looked so small. She was crying. I sat next to her.

“I’m glad you came. I wasn’t expecting you. Why did you come?”

“I just came to see how you are. Why wouldn’t I come? Jacques told me about visiting you yesterday. He said you were upset about the possibility of not getting out before Christmas. He also said that sometimes they let patients out for Christmas day.”

“I don’t know what’s going on. I hate it here, especially on weekends. It’s like a morgue, and I can tell that the nurses don’t like being here on weekends either. I guess you met Emily. She moved in yesterday. She’s okay, but sometimes I want to smother her. She didn’t know how to flush the toilet. I don’t mean just after she peed. I’d come into the bathroom and there would be poo floating in the toilet. I asked her about it. She said, ‘I pushed all the buttons, but nothing made the toilet flush.’ I showed her which handle to press. She must have gotten up five times last night to use the bathroom. I guess she didn’t close the door before she flushed, because it woke me every time. After the injection they give me at night, I’m usually gone to the world.

“She thinks she’s getting out Monday. She needs help from the nurses for everything, even to put a pillow between her knees. There’s no way she’s getting out soon. I’ve even talked to her daughter. They live about a mile and a half apart, but the daughter has a family of her own. She doesn’t have time to look after Emily.

“So how’s everybody? Bert just sort of came, dropped off some stuff for me, took me down for a cigarette, then left.”

“I saw Patsy on the bus on Tuesday. On Wednesday I saw André and Little Jake.  He’s  pissed with Emile, said he owes him money, owes him a bottle and Jake has paid for all the food.”

Joy said, “The Monday, before I went to hospital, it was raining, so we were all down by the river under the Laurier Street Bridge. I told you that André had punched red-haired Debbie. Patsy walked up to him and punched him in the face. Then she punched him again. He had blood trickling from his mouth and he sat down on the grass away from the group and started crying. Patsy said, ‘You think you’re such a big man, but now you’re crying like a bitch.’ He said, ‘I’m crying because I can’t hit you back.’ Nancy said, ‘You can’t hit me back because there are other people around. If we were alone you wouldn’t have a problem, just like you didn’t have a problem with Debbie.’ Andre is on the outs with everyone, he owes Jake, he owes Jacques, he owes Buck. You can’t keep taking from people and not giving back.”

“I guess you heard that Shakes has his own place now.”

“Yeah, not only that, but it’s completely furnished. Jake has been waiting for two months and still doesn’t have any furniture, except for a bed.”

“He also has an air conditioner, still in the box.”

“Yeah, that he sits on. They promised me furniture on the Tuesday after I was brought in here. I hope Chester still has my other stuff. My workers were in to see me when I was at the Civic. They checked my place, said that the heat was really on now. They asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I said, ‘Having an apartment full of furniture would be nice.’ I’ve been telling my physiotherapist about how difficult it is for me to get down on my air mattress, and it leaks so I wake up on the hard floor.

“I’m practicing going up and down stairs. There are four of them. I can go up alright, but my right leg is too weak for going down, that’s why I have to use this walker and a wheel chair. I seem to have to drag my right leg, and can’t use my right arm very well.”

I asked, “How would you feel if you had a walker when you left here?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t got my head around that yet.

“I just don’t want to be in here. I had planned to get a turkey, cook a Christmas meal, have my friends around. It would have been nice. The doctor said I might be able to get out just for Christmas day, but what good is that to me. I have no family, no place to go, no furniture. My friends have their own things to do.”

I said, “Chester was saying that you were fine during the five months that you lived with him. it’s just since you moved out on your own that you’ve had problems.”

“Chester’s had Raven over for most of the time that I’ve been gone. He owes Jacques money, he owes everybody.

“I hear that Outcast has been talking trash about me. Telling people not to feel sorry for me, that I brought this all on myself.”

I said, “Outcast talks trash about everybody. When Patsy was by last, she said to him, ‘Outcast, it’s not always about you.’ He said, ‘Of course it is. It’s always about me.'”

Mo said, “He’s pissed with me because whenever he’s come over he’s tried it on. I said to him, ‘Outcast, you’re living with another woman. You sneak over here and expect that something’s going to happen. It doesn’t work that way.”

I said, “Did you hear that Debbie had her arm run over by a bus?”

“No, how did that happen?”

“She was drunk, holding on to bags of groceries, running beside the bus, pounding on the side to get the driver to stop. She slipped. The groceries went flying and she fell with her arm under the bus. The rear wheels ran over it. Jake said her upper arm is purple and misshapen, but she won’t go to the hospital or to a doctor.”

Mo said, “She’s stubborn like that. I’ve been in pain for a long time, but as soon as I saw that my pee was brown, I knew that my kidneys weren’t working properly. It’s lucky that the emergency numbers on my cell phone still worked. The paramedics had to chair lift me out of my apartment. It turns out that my problems are mostly due to epilepsy, not drinking. Now, I’m getting medication for that. One of the reasons they won’t let me out is because I get a pain injection morning, night and when I need it during the day. I wouldn’t have access to that if I left. I get ten pills in the morning, twelve with lunch and another fourteen before bed.”

I asked, “Couldn’t they arrange for you to have injections at a clinic, close to where you live?”

“My doctor doesn’t seem to want to go along with that. I said to him, ‘Couldn’t I just have the injections in pill form?’ He said that because they’re narcotics he didn’t recommend that. I guess he thinks I’d sell them.

“Another thing, Emily is in because of cervical cancer. I haven’t had a pap smear for decades. I asked the nurses about it. They said that, if I wanted one, it would be my doctor here that would be doing it. There’s no way I want that slime ball down there.

“I’ve even got hemorrhoids now. I’ve had five children. I’ve spent most of the past ten years sitting on the cold sidewalk. So, why do I have hemorrhoids? The nurse said it’s probably because I’ve been constipated. They’ve given me fiber, laxatives, suppositories. I was doubled over in pain, so finally they had to give me an enema. It was worse than giving birth. I think I’m still constipated, but I haven’t been able to eat for nearly a week. I keep throwing up. They keep telling me to have some toast. I don’t want toast. The food here really sucks.”

I asked, “What about feeding you through an intravenous tube?”

“They took the tube out a few days ago. See the marks all over my arm? I don’t want to get any more needles than I have to.

“I want to go for a smoke, I’ll bring this walker back to my room and grab a wheel chair. Do you want to drive?”

“Sure, I’ll push, you give directions.”

Before we left, Joy called for the nurse. She said, “Sweetie, can you give me an injection for my arm. The pain is really bad.”

When we got outside Joy said hello to a couple, who were also having a cigarette. She said to me, after they passed, “It’s sad, she had a baby a week ago. It’s left lung isn’t fully developed. They don’t know when the baby will be released. They have other kids at home.”

I asked, “Was the baby premature?”

“No, it was a full term. They don’t know what went wrong.”

We went back into the hospital. An Inuit couple stopped to talk to Joy. After they left Joy said, “Could you smell the sherry? I could smell it as soon as they came into view. I know all the muk-muks from downtown. They hang out on Rideau Street.”

Another woman said hello as we passed. Joy said, “She looks familiar, but I don’t know where I’ve seen her before. Did you notice, she’s still wearing prison shoes.”