There were lots of names I used…

Posted: September 25, 2020 in Dialog, Prose
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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RRBC Interview, Eyes on the Book hosted by Rox Burkey  https://buff.ly/2OJjaKx

 

26 April 2012
As I approached Joy this morning she was sitting on her plastic storage box, legs wrapped in towels, hood pulled up, hands in her pockets. She was looking at the ground, rocking back and forth.
“How’s it going, Joy?”
“Everything’s all mixed up. It’s doing my head in. When I got the mail yesterday there was a letter — here I’ll show it to you. It says I was assaulted by Eduardo Guzman. I don’t know any Eduardo Guzman! Look at the date, it says April twelfth. That was just a couple of weeks ago. Maybe, it’s about that crazy guy that kicked me, but I didn’t report anything. It could be that the security guard, across the street, saw what happened and phoned the police.
“If I do a victim impact statement, that will keep him off the streets for a while longer. He hasn’t been around lately. I guess that’s the reason. I’m going to take all these papers, drop them on my probie’s desk, and let her sort them out. Angela has filled out the housing application for me, she said I would be an ideal candidate for the program.
“I really flipped at our last meeting. She wants me to take this anger management program. I told her, ‘I can’t be in a classroom with a lot of people. I’m agoraphobic.’ She said, ‘Can you explain that to me again?’ I said, ‘Look it up on your computer! Being in this office with you is okay; if the door is closed I may have a panic attack!”
“Do you have an appointment with her?” I asked.
“My appointment isn’t until May second, but I have to arrange to see her before then. I need my picture i.d. and a temporary medical card. This pneumonia is really making me feel weak, and I’m coughing up some nasty stuff. It feels like my lungs are half full of fluid.
“I had seizures last night. I was shaking in bed, I got up, and was wandering around like a ‘spaz’. Chuck didn’t know what was going on. He thought I was just drunk and told me to lie down. I really need my meds.
“I have to get out of Chuck’s apartment. I went to look at a place in the market for six hundred and fifty. I could handle that. I told the guy I was on O.D.S.P and that I would turn my check over to him. He wanted first and last month’s rent. I don’t have that. I told him I’d pay him an extra hundred and fifty a month. That would really leave me strapped for cash.
“I’m not good at dealing with things like finding a new place. Jake used to do that. I’d be the one they’d see. It would be my name on the lease. I’d be the one to go out panhandling or whatever, but there’d always be someone else around to sort things out.
“Jacques helped me to get this telephone. I wanted one that played music, but that one was two hundred bucks. Then you have to download music from a computer, upload it to the telephone, all that is too complicated for me. I decided to take the cheaper one for a hundred and forty-seven. I’ve spent the last two hours trying to figure this thing out. The only thing I have been able to do is to change the picture on the front. See, now I have a kitty cat!”
A woman stopped to talk. Joy introduced her to me as Jenna. She was very attractive with short blonde hair, blue eyes, and a beautiful smile.”I still have that poem you gave me. The one about how to survive, living on the streets. It’s here in my pocket… No, maybe in my backpack… Here it is!”
“This is beautiful,” said Jenna, “but, I didn’t give this to you. This is from my friend, Allison. I know this poem. We share things like this. We’re both in the same kind of work.
“Take care. Here’s some money for you to have a coffee or anything you like.” We both said goodbye to Jenna.
“I’m so bad with names,” said Joy, “they go in and I don’t know what happens to them. They get lost, then every once in a while they’ll pop out. It reminds me of something funny. It was while I was prostituting in Toronto. I was standing on my corner, a police car pulled up and the cop said, ‘Tamara, come over here!’ I said, ‘Oh, you’ve mistaken me for my twin sister. My name’s Maureen. I just came here to tell Tamara that our mom is sick. We have to go visit her.’ They’d believe it every time. There were lots of names I used, one was my sister-in-law’s, and she’s black. My sister got mad at me for using her name, but if anyone ever checked our picture id. they’d see the difference in our sizes. I was really heavy then — three hundred and change.

“You see that woman in jeans that just walked by. When I was fat like that, they didn’t have jeans that would fit me. I was the polyester kid. It was horrible the things I had to wear. Now, I weigh one, ten. I buy skinny jeans and they still don’t fit. I don’t have enough ass to hold them up.

Sitting cross-legged, in front of Tim Horton’s, holding an empty paper cup was Alphonse.

“Alphonse, it’s so good to see you. How have you been? Are you and Magdalene back together?”

“She’s just down the block. We’re back together, but it’s not the same. She’s still drinking. I told her, ‘You can’t drink while you’re carrying a baby,’ but she doesn’t listen. I can’t control what she does. No person can control what another person does.”

At the bench was a big crowd. I overheard Toothless Carl talking to his dog, “It’s okay, boy. I’ll take good care of you. No, no, no, Daddy’s not going back to jail. No, he isn’t.”

“I may have a place soon,” said Frank. Those people who were by the other day were from the Salvation Army. They have three places for me to look at, but I was drunk. I don’t know when they’re coming back. That’s the way it goes!

“Apart from that, things are going well. I didn’t have to pan yesterday. I had enough money to have meals at Wendy’s, McDonald’s then McDonald’s again.”

Shakes pulled a woolen, peaked cap, and a lumberjack shirt out of his backpack. “Those are nice, Shakes,” I commented. “Where did you get them?”

“I don’t know where I got them. When I woke up this morning they were in my backpack. I don’t know how they got there.”

Joy came up the sidewalk with Jacques. She had tears in her eyes.

“How are you feeling, Joy?” I asked.

“My check wasn’t in the mailbox. I phoned, they said that everything had been mailed. Yesterday when I took my mail, I left Roy’s in the box. Today everything was gone.”

“Have other people received their checks?”

“Almost everyone else gets theirs by direct deposit. I’ll check again tomorrow, but if it isn’t there I don’t know what I’ll do. Today, I made seven dollars, panning. I know that Chuck won’t throw me out, but he’s been talking with Bruce, who might come back.

“Now Chuck has a dog. I know exactly where that dog is going to be sleeping – right beside me. There’s a space between the end of Chuck’s bed and the closet. That’s Joy’s territory. If anybody tries to take that, they’ll have to fight me for it.

“I had it all planned what I was going to do with my check. I was going to rent a motel room, have a nice hot bath, spread myself, buck-ass-naked, on the bed, flip through the channels on the TV, then hop back into the bath.”

Two ladies pulling carts stopped by — Doris and Lucy, “the sandwich ladies” from the Inner City Ministry.

“Would anybody like a sandwich? We don’t have enough for everyone, so if you don’t absolutely need one, please leave them for those who do. We weren’t expecting so many people.

“Jake, would you like a tuna sandwich?”

“No, I’d probably just sit on it and squish it. Then I’d have to throw it out.”

To me, he said, “I have to get my first bottle down before I can even think of food.”

The “sandwich ladies” also had socks and underwear. Joy got a pair of pink, bikini style panties and a pair of grey socks.

Joy said, “She first brought out this green pair with purple flowers. She said, ‘These will look nice on you.’ I said, ’I don’t think so.’ The only time I’d wear something like that would be during my period. If they got really messed up I could just throw them away. Usually, I wear either boxers or go commando.” She held the panties above her head and said, ”Okay guys, have a good look. This is the last time any of you are going to have a chance to see these.”

Shark introduced me to Spike who had just been released from the hospital.

“I was in there for two months with double pneumonia. It started with a blood infection. It took four days for the doctors to figure out what antibiotic would stop the infection. By that time, it had affected my heart valves and caused growths in my lungs. They said that I nearly died.”

~~~

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