.

……

.

13 November 2012

At noon, on the traffic island, were seven of my friends including Danny in his motorized wheelchair.

Daren said to me, “We’ve met before, haven’t we?”

“Yes,” I said, “I saw you yesterday and I also met you two years ago, across the street, where the benches used to be. You told me that you’d lived in Boston and that you’d been in the army.”

“It was the Marines. I was in Baghdad and Afghanistan. When we’d walk along the streets, there would be bodies just lying there on the sidewalks – dead bodies. We’d smell the rotting flesh.

“I’ve been getting these migraine headaches. It feels like someone hit me with a baseball bat at the back of my skull.”

I asked, “Was that because of your car accident?”

Alphonse said, “He’s had a tumor.”

“Yeah, where this missing patch of hair is. The surgery wasn’t so bad; it was the chemo that I really hated. I’d keep throwing up and wouldn’t be able to stop. It was every morning. I went to the doctor recently about the headaches. He ran some tests. I don’t want to go on morphine; I’ve already got one addiction, I don’t need another. I have to go back October thirty-first for the results, Halloween – I think it’s this Thursday — to get the results.”

“Darren,” said Alphonse, “it’s November thirteenth, Halloween was two weeks ago.”

“Do you mean I missed my appointment?”

I said, “It’s no problem, Darren, phone them, they can make another appointment for you.”

“I’ve been staying in shelters, but I hate it. To wake you up in the morning they kick you in the foot.”

I said, “I’ve heard that there are a lot of crack heads there, getting up every hour, walking around, keeping people awake.”

“Not only that, but they smoke crack in the bathrooms. The smell makes me sick. It’s like burning tires. My former wife used to be on crack. I’d wonder where all our money was going. We could never seem to get ahead. One day I came home and found two guys on top of her. One of them broke my leg. I took our two kids in the truck and they stayed with my mother. The next time I saw her she patted her backside and said, ‘Kiss my ass.’ That’s the last time I saw her.”

Alphonse said, “Magdalene has been going to a women’s shelter to have a shower and get cleaned up. She said there are always women smoking crack in the bathrooms.”

“Yeah,” said Magdalene. This morning I saw a woman with a hypodermic needle to her throat. I don’t know what she was shooting. I couldn’t believe it.”

Alphonse said, “We have some good news. We’ve applied for assisted housing and I think they’ve found us a place in Vanier. I think it’s on Lavergne Avenue. They still have some other applications to go through, but I think we’re going to get it. We’ll also get a ‘street allowance’ because we’re living on the street. We’ve also made an application for O.D.S.P. (Ontario Disability Support Program. We’ll be getting a health card and a bus pass.”

Darren said, “Congratulations! Lately, I’ve been sleeping outside. I really admire you guys — sleeping outside for two and a half years.

“I was in court this morning for a pre-sentence hearing. Do you know old Alphonse?”

“No,” I said.

“Anyway, old Alphonse gave these two kids money to buy a bottle. It was a girl and a guy. They never came back. Later on, I saw them. I grabbed the guy in a headlock and took him back to old Alphonse. He didn’t have the money, he’d spent it on crack, so I laid into him. I felt a hand on my shoulder and without thinking, I threw a punch. It was a cop. He didn’t identify himself. How was I to know? A couple of them jumped me, had me in handcuffs face down on the ground. One had his knee on the back of my neck. The others put the boots to me. It was the fat blond woman who split my ear. I think they have metal plates on the toes of their boots.

“One lawyer told me I should sue. Another told me to let it go. I’ve got until January first to prepare my statement.”

Ambrose said, “Something similar happened to me and Magdalene. We were panning on Metcalfe Street. A guy came along and lay down beside us. Magdalene told him to move along. He got up to swing at her and I clocked him right at the back of the jaw. He fell into the street. The police and ambulance came. I told them what happened; that I was just defending my woman. There was a woman nearby who also witnessed it. The cop said, ‘Alphonse, you shouldn’t have done that, but I understand why you did. Just move along and we’ll forget about it.”

”So, Dennis,” said Darren, “you seem to know what it’s like for us. Have you ever slept on the streets?”

“No, but my brother did. He slept on the streets of Calgary. After not eating for three days, he was ready to jump off a bridge, when someone suggested that he join the army. He had to lie on his application because he had been dishonorably discharged from the navy. When they found out that he’d given false information, he was already in Korea. Later, he became Eastern Canadian Boxing Champ. He was an alcoholic and got into lots of fights. He’s dead now — asphyxiated on his own vomit, sleeping in a Toronto hotel. He’d also been robbed and beaten.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Darren.

“We sure got wet last night,” said Alphonse. “I gave Magdalene my inside pants because hers were soaked.”

I walked over to talk to Andre and Shakes. “Hi, Andre, how have you been?”

“So, now you decide to come over and talk to us. I thought we were being ignored.”

“No, Andre, it’s just that I haven’t seen Darren for a long time. How has it been going with your worker?”

“Thursday, I signed the papers for my health card. I filled out the application for housing. Now I’m just waiting. I see my worker again on Wednesday.

“Shakes and I slept outside last night. We were picked up on Bank Street. They phoned Hope Recovery. Shepherd’s said they had room for us. When we got there they said they were full, so they took us to the Sally. They said they were full – at nine o’clock they’re full. I think they were pulling something. I can’t believe that in buildings with four floors, that they couldn’t have found a space for us. I would have been happy to sleep on the basement floor. It would have been better than being in the rain, but they wouldn’t let us in.”

I asked, “Did Little Jake give you the bottle I brought you?”

“No, I saw him last night. He didn’t say anything about a bottle.”

“Friday, the afternoon you had the meeting with your worker, the police were writing tickets. You asked me if I could do you a favor and buy you a bottle. I said, ‘I’ll see what I could do.’ I knew that you guys would have had to pour out all your booze, so I brought back a bottle of Imperial sherry from the Rideau Street liquor store. You weren’t there so I gave the bottle to Frank. I said to him that you’d probably want to share it, and to make sure Shakes got a drink.”

“I didn’t know that. Thanks!” Actually, I didn’t pour out my booze. I didn’t have any to pour out. I was sober Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I spent the weekend at my cousin’s.

Shakes had his head down. With his hat on I could barely see his face. I bent down and looked into his eyes. “Hi, Shakes, how are you doing. Are you getting there?”

“Hi, Dennis, I’m getting there slowly but surely.”

“Shakes, I heard that you were robbed twice last week.”

“Yeah, twice.”

Andre said, “What happens is — it doesn’t matter if you have a padlock on your locker or not — guys will come in the middle of the night with bolt cutters and cut your lock. Everyone knows that Shakes will have a bottle, some pot and some change. I think it’s the staff, they’ve got access to bolt cutters.”

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Comments
  1. bwcarey says:

    nice flow, thanks

    Liked by 1 person

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