They Call Me Red

……

 

 

15 August 2013

A beautiful summer day.  Adding to my pleasure, in the lobby of the building where I work, the management company was giving out free ice cream. I walked to the park expecting a crowd; there was only Mariah and Big Chester. After asking for bus tickets he left. Shortly after, Little Chester arrived.

“Happy vacation, everybody!” he welcomed.

I asked Mariah, “How has Joy been doing lately?”

“Her legs are a little better, she managed to climb the stairs to my place the other day. Her worst problem is getting rid of Big Jake. He’s paranoid because he can’t contact his parole officer. He’s been phoning but never gets an answer. I don’t know why he doesn’t just go to their office. I know it’s difficult for him, getting around in a wheelchair, but he should be able to manage; other people do. He keeps the door locked, the blinds pulled and is worried that people will be able to track him through the GPS on his phone. Joy feels like she’s back in prison.

“At first he’d go back every night to where he was staying; either the Shep’ or the alley, wherever; but when Joy’s legs got bad he started staying the night, and for the past two weeks he hasn’t left. He doesn’t even go outside in the afternoon for some fresh air.”

I asked, “He hasn’t been drinking and beating Joy has he?”

“Not that I’ve heard of. They can’t afford to drink.”

How have you been lately, Mariah?”

“Whew, I bought myself a treat on Friday, some fresh lobster. I got them from the Chinese place on Dundas near the beer store. He keeps them live in tanks, in the front window. You can pick whichever one you want. There must have been something wrong with it. After boiling, the flesh seemed a bit mushy. I thought that was odd, but I didn’t want to waste food, and I love lobster. I started puking and couldn’t stop. I’d poisoned myself. Charlie called an ambulance. I spent the weekend in the hospital.”

“I guess they gave you antibiotics, did they?”

“No, I don’t take any pills. I let my body take care of itself. After a few days without eating, I wasn’t puking anymore, so they released me. When I got home I had a glass of vodka and started puking again, so no more vodka for a while. I’ve got my mix with me, just in case, but, so far, I’ve been sticking with straight water.

“I’m feeling better now, but I’ve been getting these lumps around my knees and ankles. I squeeze them and a lump of pus pops out. I guess it’s the body’s way of isolating the poison. It has to come out somewhere — either you throw it up,  poop it out, or it comes out somewhere else. With me, It’s my knees and ankles.

“That reminds me, I have to go for one of those exams, you know, where they go up your behind.  It’s for acid reflux. Last time they went in fifteen units. This time they’ll have to go further. Whats really uncomfortable is the air they pump into you. It really hurts.

“My guy, Charlie is back staying with me. I kicked him out about six weeks ago. He’s nearly killed me before.  He has PTSD. He woke up in the middle of the night and tried to strangle me, tried to pull my face apart. I said to him, ‘That’s it!  You hit me,  you hit the road!’ ”

I asked, “Was he in the military? Is that how he got PTSD?”

“Yes, he’s being treated for it, but it’s when he’s into the booze that he has the flare-ups.   I had a twenty-six of vodka. He asked if he could have a drink. He downed about six ounces in one gulp, straight from the bottle, went down just like water.

“He also has complications because of a collapsed lung. He had double pneumonia and had the tubes coming out of him to drain the fluid. I looked after him while he was going through that.

“I saw him a few days ago at the Mission. He asked if there was any chance he could come home. I said, ‘Let’s walk and talk. I told him what he had put me through. He said, ‘Oh my God, I’m so sorry.’ I let him come back.

“When he’s sober he’s the nicest guy in the world. He’s gone into burning buildings to help someone get out. He even went back for their luggage, then I had to go in after him.”

Little Chester said, “That’s what we have firemen for. They have the protective suits, the masks, the fire hoses.”

~~~

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