They Call Me Red

……

 

09 July 2013

This morning when I neared Joy’s spot I saw a Paramedic Vehicle parked close to where she sits. I thought the worst, then I saw her feet sticking out from behind a concrete pillar. Joy said, “I feel so bad. That poor woman was one of my regulars. She was reaching in her purse for change when she tripped on that uneven sidewalk — I don’t know how many people have tripped there. Anyway, she fell face down with her arm across her chest.  Her knees were scraped, her hand was scraped and swollen. I jumped up and helped her, then I held her hand until the paramedics came.  She acted so surprised that I stayed with her.  I said,  ‘I’m human, I feel bad when somebody gets hurt.’ She said, ‘But you people…’ I asked, ‘What do you mean, us people…street people… panhandlers? Just because people treat us like shit doesn’t mean we don’t  have feelings.’ At that point, Joy’s eyes brimmed with tears.

“I think I freaked her out a bit. When I get nervous I start signing and scratching. I explained to her that I’m deaf in one ear and learned to sign when I was young. I don’t know what she thought of that.

“The paramedics arrived, checked her over and wanted to take her to hospital, but she refused to go. The van has been here for about an hour. I thought by now that the fat driver would have gotten out to get a donut at Timmy Ho’s, but he hasn’t moved. The woman is long gone. She’s gone to her office or somewhere.

I asked, “How are you feeling? It must have been upsetting for you.”

“I’m alright. They installed my landline and my cable. I still have to buy a phone. I didn’t know that Bell didn’t install their own phones, but the installer said that too many have been stolen. I guess I’ll try to get one at Giant Tiger, or someplace. I just want something really simple, but I want call display. I’m not sure I can get that at Giant Tiger. I want to know who’s calling. If I don’t know them, I won’t answer. Having a television and a phone makes me feel scared for some reason. It makes me feel too human, most times I just want to hide away.”

I said, “You don’t have to answer the phone. Maybe, you can find a used answering machine somewhere.  I never answer the phone. You don’t have to watch the television. I watch very little. I never watch the news, it’s too depressing.”

“I guess, it’s staying alone that I’m scared about.”

I asked, “Have you thought about Jake moving in with you?”

“No, not the way he smells. Even if he did clean himself up I’m not ready for a relationship.”

“How about having Loretta move in with you. She’s been sober for five months now. You seem to get along with her.”

“No, I’d kill her. I think I’m better off by myself. I’ve got my name down on a couple of different housing registries. I didn’t put down any restrictions as far as the neighborhood is concerned. I just want someplace clean, with no bed bugs.

“I was over at Chester’s the other day. I checked his mattress. Besides the piping at the bottom, where that crease is, was black with bed bugs; big black ones. He said to me, ‘I don’t know where they come from.’ I said, ‘Did you ever think that they may come from the people who stay over. It just takes one bed bug to lay about a thousand eggs. I read up on them. I also had a friend whose husband was an exterminator. She told me all about them. They’re nasty.

“When I had them I put two in a sealed bottle and put it in the freezer. When my friend came over I showed her the bottle. They were still alive and crawling up the sides of the bottle. My friend said, ‘I’ve going to put these in my purse and show my husband.’ I said, ‘You’re going to put them in your purse just like that? I think you should double-bag them. I gave her a couple of Ziploc bags to put the bottle in. When her husband saw them he said, ‘Get that bottle out of here! Put it outside somewhere! I don’t want it in the house!’ That’s from a guy who knows bed bugs.”

I said, “You can spray for them, can’t you?”

“You spray the first time, wait two weeks, spray again, wait another two weeks then do the final spraying. If I was married to an exterminator I’d spray every week.”

It was time for me to go to work.  I asked, “Are you going to be at the park at noon?”

“I don’t know. If nobody’s there when I go past, I think I’ll just go home.”

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