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bench

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1 October 2012

I walked toward the park. I recognized Jacques’ bushy white beard and waved to him. While I was still about a dozen feet from the group an attractive, young woman, with long black hair, approached me.

She said, “We haven’t met before. My name is Doreen.”

“I’m Dennis,” I said.

“Do you happen to have a cigarette?”

“No, sorry, I don’t smoke.”

“Good for you. I wish I didn’t smoke. It’s bad for you and it smells bad.” Doreen then sat on the curb.

I shook hands with the woman beside her and said, “Hi, I’m Dennis.”

“We’ve met before, “she said, “I’m Jenny.”

I shook hands with Chester, “Joy will be here shortly, ” he said.

The rest of the group were either sitting on the curb or standing nearby. I sat between Shakes and Doreen.

“How was your weekend, Shakes?”

“I’ll tell you in a minute.” He was counting coins and putting them in a plastic pill bottle. “My weekend was good, except for the rain on Sunday. I was walking in that. My leathers didn’t dry until about three this morning.”

“Have you been sleeping behind Starbucks, or inside somewhere?”

“Both, it all depends on who kidnaps me, ha ha ha ha.”

“I guess you mean that in a good way?”

“I stayed at Danny’s place last night. He lives in Little Italy.”

Doreen asked me, “Where did your family come from?”

“My grandparents came from Iceland in 1902.”

“I know people from Iceland. I’m from Baffin Island, not far from Iceland.”

I said, “My mother didn’t learn to speak English until she went to school.”

“Where I went to school,” said Doreen, “If we spoke Inuk to anybody we got a slap on the head. When I went home, if I spoke English, even to someone who spoke English, I’d get a slap on the head. I got it from both sides.

“Do you know whose land were on?”

I said, “I was told it was Algonquin land.”

“There is a dispute about that. It’s Huron and Algonquin land. It makes me so mad to think about it, but this land was a native burying-ground. How would you like it if they built over the place where your grandmother was buried?

“I may live in the city, but I still make my stamp on the ground.” She demonstrated by hitting the sidewalk with the side of her fist.

To some women passing on the sidewalk, Doreen yelled, “Will you please give me a smile?”

The women turned and smiled. Doreen, replied, “Thank you, you did give me a smile. That makes me so happy.”

To me she said, “I just want to be happy. I think that is what most people want, just to be happy.”

I agreed, “If everybody expressed love to each other, the world would be a happier place.”

I could see Joy walking up the sidewalk. She didn’t look happy.

“Hi Joy, how was your weekend?”

“It was okay — quiet. I’m so fuckin’ pissed off right now. I haven’t been able to get my check yet. It was supposed to be ready Friday, but my worker said that because I switched to the Salvation Army it was going to be delivered to a different office. I phoned this morning. They said, ‘Your check will be ready any time you want to come down and pick it up.’ ‘Great,’ I said. I used my last bus ticket to come down to the office. When I got there they said, ‘Come back at two o’clock.’ What a run around.”

Jenny stood up and tried to give Joy a hug. Joy said, “Jenny I’ve had a bad day and I’m not in the mood for a hug. I just want to be left alone for a while.”

Jenny said, “Joy, don’t be like that. I just want to be friendly.”

“Jenny, what did I just say? Now, sit down or I’ll knock you down.”

Danny said, “Joy, that’s no way to talk to your friends. Whether you’ve had a bad day or not, there’s no excuse for taking it out on the rest of us. I’ve talked to you about that before.”

“Danny, keep your mouth shut, before I come over there and smack you.”

“Come on over. I’ll smack you right back.”

Joy was quiet for a while, then she said to Minnie, “I’m sorry for talking to you like that. I had no right. I apologize.”

“It’s alright, Joy, I understand.”

“Danny, I apologize to you too.”

Minnie, walking with a cane, stopped and asked Doreen, “Aren’t you cold, with bare arms?”

Doreen said, “Since the accident, I’ve lost all feeling of heat or cold, in my arms and legs. If I wear too many clothes I get itchy all over.” (major spinothalamic or spinal cord injury)

“Let me give you a hug,” said Minnie.

Doreen stood up and they hugged. Jenny said, “Can I have a hug too, Skinny Minnie?”

Minnie hugged her and said, “Jenny, you’re skinnier than I am.”

It was nearly time for me to go. I walked over to Jacques to shake his hand. He said, “You know, I woke up in the middle of the night with such a sore throat. Then I had to go to the bathroom. An hour later I had to go again. It was back and forth, back and forth, all night long. You better not get too close to me.”

I said good-bye to Joy, she said, “Do you have to go already?”

“Yes, but I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Not in the morning. I have a meeting with my P.O. (Probation Officer), but I’ll see you here at noon.”

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