26 October 2012

As I approached Joy, she started getting up. “Go ahead,” I said, “I’ll watch your stuff.” She headed off to the library.

When she returned I said, “I visited Serge, yesterday. His breathing tube is out, he was sitting up, muttering away in French. He didn’t recognize me or the names of his friends, except William. He scowled and his blood pressure went from 130 to 180. What do you think that was about? Do you think William pushed Serge?”

Joy said, “I’ve never liked that guy. I’d rather punch him in the face than talk to him. I told Serge that his bruises looked more like they had been caused by a fist,  and not a fall. I’ve had a lot of experience in that area. I’m going to have a talk with William.”

“Did you sleep at home last night?”

“Yeah, I was tired. I walked in, took one look at the kitchen, and lay on my air mattress. I slept until about three o’clock. Chester came home, I said, ‘Look at this mess. Didn’t you tidy up at all while I was away? I looked in the cupboard and you’ve eaten my last can of soup. What am I supposed to eat?’ He said, ‘Well, I don’t have anything to eat either.’ I said, ‘Take some of the change you’ve got on the table and buy yourself something.’ His check comes tomorrow, maybe he’ll buy groceries, but I’m not counting on it. I’ve even thought of going back to Cornerstone, just until they find me a place.”

A woman stopped and handed Joy a huge lollipop. “What flavor is this?” asked Joy.

“I don’t know, all the other ones have been really good.”

“Through the wrapper, it smells like strawberry. Thanks!”

To me, she whispered, “This is the last thing I need. Look at all the food I got: chocolate bars, a club sandwich with chicken, lettuce, bacon and tomato, some kind of bagel, an apple, a banana. Here, you take the banana, it hasn’t even touched the sidewalk. After my stomach operation, my doctor told me not to eat bananas, too much potassium, it could kill me. In the winter when I’d get a banana, I’d put it on the sidewalk and when I’d pick it up, half of the peel would be stuck to the concrete. The apple I’ll give to Jacques. What I really want is a drink.”

“How was your appointment with your probation officer?”

“I’m so happy. I asked her, ‘So, when do I come back next? Do I have to report twice a week, Once a month?’ She said, ‘You’re done. No more visits, although I would like you to meet with Doris from the Elizabeth Fry Society. You seem to have made some progress with her.’ I agreed, I said, ‘She’s away for a week or so, but when she’s back I’d like to see her, but nobody else.’ I didn’t like the way that other woman talked to me on the phone, let alone sitting in a room with her and spilling my guts. Doris even lets me drink there. I told her, ‘If I’m sober, I’m not going to say a word. If I can drink, I’ll relax a bit and will feel more comfortable. Some of the shit I went through is still upsetting.’

“I got a letter from two of my sons.  The youngest calls me Aunt Joy, but he was really close to my mother — I don’t mind that. They’re both doing well. I’m going to write back to them. Finally, I have contact with two of my sons again.”

At noon I met with six of my friends including Curly with his skateboard, and Danny in his motorized wheelchair. Joy looked very relaxed.

I said, “You must be happy, with no probation to worry about.”

“I’m happy alright, I’m also drunk. As long as I don’t get arrested before November 11, I’m free and clear. This afternoon I just want to go home and sleep. I have to switch keys with Chester because he’s staying out. When I have his keys, with the electronic card for the outside door, I feel like I’ve got the keys to Fort Knox. I can do anything I want, eat whatever I want, watch whatever I want on TV.

“Chester, when I get home, do I have dishes to do?”

“No,” said Chester, “I did them.”

To me, Joy whispered, “I’m going to have to do them again. He’s lousy.” She counted her change and gave Chester enough to buy a couple of beer.

“Sometimes I wish I looked more like a woman. A guy asked me why I wear a do-rag. I took it off and asked him, ‘Would you give me money if I looked like this?’ He said, ‘No, I guess not.’ ‘Well, there you go.’ Some people think I look like a dyke. I like men, it’s just that I don’t want to be somebody’s property. I like my independence and privacy.

“Hey Barfly, do you know you’ve got a cigarette burn in the crotch of your sweat pants?”

“Yes, I know. These are my court clothes. I was in court this morning.”

I asked Jacques, “Have you found an apartment, yet?”

“No, I’m going to be homeless at the end of the month.”

“Are you going to get a locker, and take a room for a while?”

“I checked on the lockers this morning, first thing at nine o’clock. They want you to keep it a minimum of two months, and it costs seventy dollars a month. I can’t afford that. I’m going to talk to Shark, maybe he has a little place in a corner where I can store my stuff. I don’t have much, me:  my fridge, my microwave, my George Foreman grill and my cooking pot. That’s all. If I need anything else I might find it in the garbage. Every week people throw stuff out. I found a toaster, I took it home, plugged it in and it worked great. Did you see my new bike?” He pointed to a new looking bicycle with front shock absorbers. I bought that for five dollars. It’s no good to me. Can you see me riding something like that? Imagine Shakes trying to ride that. He can’t stagger straight, let alone ride a bike, same with Jake. He might start off sober in the morning, but in the evening he’s all over the place.  I sell it for what I paid for it.

“In the place that I’m in now, I pay five hundred and ten. That’s with everything. That’s a good price. I don’t need anything big. I threw out my old mattress because of the bed bugs. Every time I move I throw away about  70% of my stuff. I don’t like to pay for movers, so I just take what I can carry on my back and what will fit in my cart.

“I spoke to Shark’s landlord. He had a place that I really liked but it was eight hundred a month. I can’t afford that. There was another that I liked — he rented it. There may be something in Vanier. I like where Hippo is living. He could only get a single bed, the place is so small, but that would be okay for me.”

I mentioned to Jacques, “I visited Serge yesterday.”

“Yeah, you went? I hear he’s sitting up in bed, looking much better. William is going to visit him later today. They are good friends, they both speak French.”

I said, “When I mentioned William’s name, Serge scowled and his blood pressure went from 130 to 180. He was clenching his fists and pulled out his intravenous needle.”

“That’s strange,” said Jacques.

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