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11 April 2012

On the sidewalk this morning I met Jacques and Raven. She was on the telephone (probably Jacques’ phone). I asked him if he had seen Joy this morning.

“Yes, I saw Joy. She was in her usual spot. I talked with her.”

I approached the corner of Queen and Parliament. I was in view of where Joy usually sits, but her spot was vacant. I crossed the street and asked Metro and Two-four if they’d seen her.

“She was here at six,” said Metro, “her usual time. I don’t think she was feeling well. She may have gone home. Usually, she stops to talk to us when she leaves, but she didn’t say anything.”

The area around ‘the benches’ was crowded, so I sat on the sidewalk with Cathy, Frank, and Emile. Serge, as usual, was sitting off by himself, looking like Santa Claus.

Annie was singing, “You Are My Sunshine.”

Debbie asked, “Are you aware of the weird things that are happening with the moon lately?”

“When I was a kid,” I said, “we used solunar tables, based on the moon, that indicated the best times for fishing. They were always right.”

“When I was a boy, ” said Jake, “my stepdad took us to Rouge Lake in Algonquin Park. In those days there were no roads into the park. We had to portage with our canoes for ten hours before we got to the lake. That night while all the adults were drinking, we kids were tearing around with the dogs. The next morning, my stepdad said, ‘When the sun gets to the top of that hill is the time the fish will be biting.’ We caught fifty-six speckled trout in one and a half hours. It was amazing! Then the game warden came along and said we had six fish over our limit. He gave my mom a ticket. She had to drive all the way to Perth to pay it.”

When I was a girl,” said Debbie…”

“Will you shut up!” yelled Jake.

“I should explain,” said Debbie, “Jake and I have an off-again, on-again relationship. Right now it’s off. We love and hate each other.”

“Hi pretty lady!” said Andre to a woman passing by, “Will you smile for me?” It’s hard not to smile when looking at Emile since he has no front teeth. “That’s better. That wasn’t so hard was it?”

“Emile, keep your voice down!” said Debbie. “We don’t want to attract any unwelcome attention.” Nearly everyone had open bottles of liquor under their coats, or somewhere out of sight.

“We’ve been coming here for ten years, but It only takes one incident for us to get kicked out. We’re safe now, but we used to sit at some benches up the hill. They took those away. There used to be two benches here. They’ve just taken one away.”

“Hey, you see these sunglasses?” asked Andre, “Do you know where I got them? When I was walking across the bridge, two guys were coming towards me. One was wearing these sunglasses. I walked up to the guy and grabbed them right off his face, put them on, then I said to him, ‘Are you man enough to hit a guy with glasses, to get these back?’ Then I hit the other guy for no reason.

“I was arrested last night. Shenkman came by with his cart, like one of those you pull behind a bicycle, and I asked him to give me a ride in it, so he did. Then he wanted me to give him a ride. I did, but I accidentally went over the curb and Shenkman fell out. We started fighting and that’s when the cops came along.”

“Andre, you’re not going to start fighting here, are you?” asked Jake.

“No, I love you guys. We’re all family here.”

It was time for me to go back to work, so I said my goodbyes. When I shook hands with Jacques I asked him, “Was Joy feeling sick this morning?”

“Yes, she was having trouble with her legs, so she decided to go home. Have you heard, she’s in her new place now?”

~~~

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10 April 2012

This morning, as I arrived downtown, the rain had stopped and the sun was shining. Scattered showers had been forecast throughout the day. In Joy’s usual spot was a neatly dressed man named Kirk.

“I just got in from British Columbia this morning. It took me four days hitchhiking. I got a lot of rides from truckers. I had been working in a logging camp. It was a fairly large camp with thirty machines. I operated a skidder. The owner died and left the company to his twenty-two-year-old son, who didn’t want to carry on the business.

“I stopped at the Mission this morning. They weren’t serving meals. They told me to come back at seven this evening.

“I’m originally from the Kootenay region of southern British Columbia, but I found it too expensive to live there. I was paying eight hundred and fifty per month, plus utilities, for a one-bedroom apartment.”

I directed him to the church up the street. They serve lunch there. I also suggested he go to ‘the benches’ to meet some of my friends. They could show him around and give him information.

After leaving Kirk I was walking along the sidewalk and met Ian and Marlena.

“How was the Easter weekend for you, Ian?”

“Easter day was great. I was ‘panning’ on Parliament Street and collected eighty-three dollars.”

“How are you, Marlena?”

“I don’t know.”

I left them and continued on my way to work.

At noon it was raining slightly, then the sky cleared and the sun came out. I walked to ‘the benches’.

I asked, “How was your weekend, Hippo?”

“I’m still barred from the Mission, but they let me come for the Easter meal yesterday. It was really good. They served prime rib, mashed potatoes, and apple pie. I filled my plate a couple of times.”

“I was there too,” said Silver, “I forgot my doggy bag. I was looking forward to having something to eat later while I was watching American Idol.”

“Are you still sleeping under the bridge, Hippo?” I asked.

“No, I’m staying at the Salvation Army. There are a lot of crackheads there. Someone stole my socks.”

“When I stayed there,” said Silver, “someone stole my sneakers.”

“I should get a cougar to sleep under my bed,” said Hippo.

“Maybe you could borrow Bear from Weasel,” I said, “or borrow Bowser (Shakes’ stuffed dog). He’s staying on Wolf’s balcony right now. At least you wouldn’t have to feed him.”

I sat on the curb next to Kenny. I asked him where he was from.

“I’ve lived in Calgary, but I’ve lived here for a while now. Sometimes I work construction or install drywall, but I prefer labor. I’d never work in an office. I only work outside.”

I talked to Larry for a while, he said, “I panhandle like the rest of my friends here, but I don’t use a cap or a cup. I just sit on a corner and ask people if they have any spare change. That way I can’t be charged by the police.

“Hippo!” said Silver. “Do you want to go on a beer run for me. I’ll give you a beer and a dollar.”

“Can I have a beer?” asked Raven.

Later, Silver said to me, “I don’t mind sharing, but some people only take, they don’t give back.”

~~~

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6 April 2012

I’ve sometimes wondered why I’m drawn to homeless people. I’ve found some answers in the book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction by Gabor Mate, M.D.

Dr. Mate works with drug addicts in the former Portland Hotel, on Hastings Street, in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, considered Canada’s drug capital.

“What keeps me here? muses Kersten Steuerzbech. “In the beginning, I wanted to help. And now…I still want to help, but it’s changed. Now I know my limits. I know what I can and cannot do. What I can do is to be here and advocate for people at various stages of their lives, and allow them to be who they are. We have an obligation as a society to…support people for who they are, and to give them respect. That’s what keeps me here.”

Liz Evans began working in the area at the age of twenty-six. “I was overwhelmed,” she recalls.”As a nurse, I thought I had some expertise to share. While that was true, I soon discovered that, in fact, I had very little to give–I could not rescue people from their pain and sadness. All I could offer was to walk beside them as a fellow human being, a kindred spirit.”

~~~

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5 April 2012

Another cold morning. Joy wasn’t in her usual spot on the sidewalk, but Ghyslain was. I sat down beside him.

“Are you new to this area?”

“No, I’ve been on the streets for fifteen years, but the last three years were in Ottawa and Montreal.

“I guess you know Joy then?”

“Yes, I gave here this spot when I moved.”

“How is it living on the streets in Ottawa and Montreal, as compared to Toronto?”

“It’s much better here. The people are friendlier. In Montreal, I was sleeping in a park. They woke me at four in the morning and gave me a ticket. I said to them, ‘If you think I’m paying this ticket, you’re crazy.’ ”

“Jacques has a wall papered with tickets.”

“That sounds like Jacques. Do you know Old Andre? He died.

“I’m getting cold sitting here. I’m going inside for a coffee.”

I moved to the next block to talk with Nick.

“How has it been going, since I saw you last?”

“I wasn’t here yesterday. It was too cold, but, overall it’s been going fine.”

“Do you know Bearded Bruce?”

“Yes, I know him.”

“He was telling me that he’s visited eleven countries.”

“He probably counts Scotland as a country, then England and Wales. He’d count Ireland as two countries. In that case, I’ve visited eleven countries also, but that was a long time ago.”

“Do you have any plans for the weekend?”

“No, no plans. I may phone the Mission and ask when they’re planning to have their Easter meal.”

“Well, I guess I should get to work,” I said. “Enjoy your weekend Nick. I’ll see you.”

“I’ll see you next week.”

At noon today, the sun was shining, but there was a cold wind blowing. At ‘the benches’ I met the usual congregation.

“How are you doing, Shakes?” I said.

“You know, I think I’m starting to get there. It’s cold, that’s why I have socks on my hands.”

“Shakes!” said Wolf, “here’s a pair of gloves you can wear.”

“These have dog hair on them. Is it from Bowser? (Shakes’ stuffed dog, standing watch on Wolf’s balcony).”

“I should have been working this morning,” said Joy. “What happened is I overslept. Bruce and Jimmy John were at Chuck’s last night. Bruce is so funny when he’s stoned.

“Jimmy John got up early and stole three of Chuck’s beer, leaving him with only one. That’s really low. I saw him sniffing around my bag as well, but I kept a close eye on it.

“Mona and Tony left Chuck’s place. They were supposed to pay him seventy-five dollars. That’s only right if you stay at someone’s place and they feed you. I don’t know if they would have paid Chuck if Bruce and I hadn’t gone after them. When I caught up with Tony, he had a huge wad of bills.”

“Are you feeling better today?” I asked.

”After I ate yesterday I felt better, but I’m on my period now. I don’t know why I’m telling you this, but I was off my period for the past four months and now it’s back. It’s heavier than usual. I’m soaking through a tampon every hour for most of the day.

“Will you walk with me to the mall? I want to buy a bottle of wine and use their bathroom. It’ll be warm in there.”

“I was talking to Ghyslain this morning,” I said. “He was in your spot.”

“He’s a good guy. He’ll move on when I go back to work.”

“I was also talking to Nick. He mentioned that he may go to the Easter meal at the Mission.”

“The Sandwich Lady was by earlier, she gave me a list of all the events at the Mission, the Salvation Army, and the Shepherd. You won’t see me there – too many people. I’m agoraphobic. Besides that, a lot of people there are pretty sketchy. I’m not that well balanced as it is. I don’t need any of them to make it worse.”

“How is the food there?”

“The Easter meal is always good. I’ve liked it when I’ve gone. During the week the menu is boring. Each day they have something different, but from week to week it’s the same. On Sundays they have an Indian family come in to make a vegetarian meal. Can you imagine trying to get men to eat tofu? I don’t think so!

“I got some chocolate Easter eggs this morning. I don’t like eating chocolate, but I’ve got a gallon of vanilla ice cream at Chuck’s place. I’m going to smash up the chocolate and mix it with the ice cream. I think that’ll be good.”

My noon hour was over, so I walked the two blocks back to work.

~~~

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4 April 2012

This morning, standing where Joy usually pans, was a middle-aged man, his hair brown and thinning, his cap in his hand. He must be new in town, otherwise, he wouldn’t have been standing in Joy’s spot; not if he valued his life. I introduced myself and gave him a gift card for a sandwich. He seemed truly grateful, not only for the card but for accepting him as an equal. His name is Ghyslain. I’m not good at small talk and didn’t want him to think I was just interested in him for information, so I just said, “Have a good day!” If I see him again, I’ll be prepared with more to talk about.

I expect that Joy is busy with getting settled in her new place. Perhaps, I’ll find out more at ‘the benches’ at noon.

The sky was overcast with dark clouds looming in the distance, there was a cold breeze blowing, and the smell of rain was in the air. At ‘the benches’ were about a half dozen people.

Joy was the first to greet me. I said to her, “Hippo mentioned that you were in the middle of moving. Is that all settled now?” Joy sat on the curb beside Bruce and I sat on the sidewalk.

“Can you believe it? Roy didn’t pay the hydro. I was stuck with no electricity. I’m staying with a friend for the next month. Do you know Toothless Chuck? Well, he has a couple of teeth in front. Anyway, that’s where I’m staying. It was fine for the first couple of nights when it was just me and him, but then his friends started staying over.

“I was eating my supper when Mona starts making out with this guy on the living room floor. I don’t want to see that stuff while I’m eating. I was ready to kill her. I said, ‘Will you take that stuff to the shower? That’s what showers are made for.’

“I haven’t been back to the other place since I picked up my stuff. My down-filled winter coat got ruined in the last rain we had. I put it in the dryer, but I couldn’t get the down to go back where it was supposed to be, so I left it behind as a bed for Harley.

“I also had to leave my python, Cyprus behind. That was upsetting. I paid seventy-five dollars for that snake. I think she was named after the Cuban-American/Latino hip-hop group, Cyprus Hill. I don’t know. That’s the name she had at the pet store.”

Bearded Bruce said, “Some of my mates back in Scotland, were really into that group.

“Well, I went to court today and got my resolution. They gave me a hundred and twenty days, so I’ll serve eighty. I’ll be going in on May second. My lawyer told me that I could get probation, but I’m a drinker. I’d pile up violations in no time, better I just go to jail.

“After I get out I’m going out west, near Calgary. A friend phoned and offered me a job as a chef, that’s what I studied for in college. I can get work anywhere. When I get out I’ll have everything cleared up; my tickets, everything.

“Ever since I finished college I’ve been traveling — a wandering hobo. This is the eleventh country I’ve been to, but it’s time to move on. I’ve got myself into a rut here. I traveled all over Scotland, England, Wales, Cyprus, and North Africa before coming here. Now, I’m sleeping behind the dumpsters in the back of Starbucks. I’ve stayed there before. They know me. I told the manager that I was back, just in case one of the staff saw me there and phoned the police. It’s relatively safe there, they have a spotlight and a surveillance camera. They’re really good to me. Sometimes, the manager will bring me coffee in the morning. The cardboard I sleep on, I slide under the dumpster, so it’s there when I need it at night.

“Sometimes, I’ll go to the Magic Oven for breakfast. I can get three eggs, half a plate of potatoes. Being Scottish I love potatoes. If the fat cook is on he’ll give me an extra sausage and an extra piece of toast. If I go there near closing time, at three in the afternoon, they’ll give me an extra bowl of soup. You see this belly? This isn’t a beer belly, it’s an eating belly.

“One of my favorite places to go is Wendy’s. I get their Double Junior Bacon Cheeseburger for a dollar, eighty-nine. Since I’m Scottish, I take out one of the meat patties, wrap it up, and put it in my pocket. Then I go to Tim Horton’s where I can buy a bun for fifty cents. That really makes a meal.

“I do alright. I panhandle on Queen Street. I make thirty to forty dollars, then quit for the day. It’s lazy work. I can’t wait until summer when I’ll have my drinking under control and I can go out west. It’s not that the grass is greener, it’s just that the grass is different.

It started to rain, then snow, then hail. “I hate the rain. Firstly, I don’t like getting soaked. Secondly, when people have an umbrella in one hand and a coffee in the other, I’m not going to get any change.”

Shakes came over and asked Joy if she had any pot. “No man,“ she said, “I don’t have any pot. The only one who had any was Shark and he’s on a liquor run.” Shakes sat down beside me.

“Here Shakes,” said Joy, “you can have some of my wine.”

“Bruce, can you help me up?” asked Shakes.

“Okay, man I’ll help you. Just grab hold of my hand.” Shakes was pulled to his feet and he walked back to the bench to sit down. “I’m surprised that he’s able to walk, being as drunk as he is. I don’t do babysitting. If someone is too drunk to walk, I just leave them. Let the police take care of them.”

Joy said to me, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Bruce said to Joy, “I know you’re not feeling well, but it’s good to go to work, if only for a little while. I try to work every day whether I feel like it or not.”

The hail was getting worse. I had to get back to work. We all said our goodbyes and ran for shelter.

~~~

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2 April 2012

The sun was shining at ‘the benches’, the wind was cool but not too harsh.

“Hi, Serge!” I said.

“Hey, it’s Kenny Rogers!”

“Yes, that’s what you said the time I saw you. You said I looked like Kenny Rogers. That was quite a while ago.

“Hi, Hippo!”

“Holy lord thunder! Hi Dennis! It’s really good seeing you again.”

“It’s good seeing you, Hippo! It’s been a while. What have you been up to?”

“I’ve been okay. I come by here every once in a while. I got real drunk yesterday. I’ve been barred from the Scott Mission again. This time for two days.”

“What happened?”

“I put a hole in the wall. It happened in the dormitory. I came in at about four in the morning and my bunkmate wrote the time down in a book as if he was a cop or somethin’. That got me mad. I put my elbow through the wall. It was either that or set fire to the guy. I would have done it too – douse him with lighter fluid, light a match, then ‘poof.’

“Last night, Little Jake and I slept under the bridge. It was a little cool.”

“You have a sleeping bag, don’t you?”

“No, I used to have one, but not now. Jacques gave me a winter coat. Now, I need new boots. The soles are coming off these.

“I’m just about ready to move to British Columbia. Remember, I told you that I had an inheritance coming from my grandma? I phoned my parents on the weekend to see how things were coming along. I thought I was going to get ten thousand. It turns out it’s going to be more than that – about eighty thousand. I’ve got a job waiting for me, working in the bush. I’ll buy a mobile home, and I’ll be set.

“You haven’t seen Joy lately, have you?

“Yes, she was here earlier, but she went home. She’s in the middle of moving. Roy hadn’t paid the hydro, so they’ve had no electricity. I don’t know what’s going on with him.”

Bear  (part black Labrador, part Chow Chow)  barked at a kid riding by on a skateboard. A lady stopped to admire the dog. Jake said, “Don’t try to pet her, she bites, especially kids on skateboards.”

“Oh, that’s what the fuss was about.”

~~~

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30 March 2012

This morning the sun was shining and the wind was bitterly cold. Joy wasn’t at her usual spot, but Nick, in the next block, was sitting on the sidewalk in front of St. Paul’s. Within the church is a drop-in ministry under the name of ‘A Place to Go’ for all who find themselves in need of fellowship, a smile, and some good food. Joy has told me that the ladies who volunteer with this program are always fussing over Nick. They bring him big sandwiches, desserts, and mugs of coffee.

Nick is always neat in appearance, his white beard is trimmed and he has sparkling blue eyes. He is also the most un-talkative man I have ever met. I think of myself as a listener and an observer, but not a conversationalist. Today I was determined to have a conversation with him.

“Good morning, Nick.”

“Good morning, Dennis.”

“I guess Joy decided that it was too cold for her today,” I commented.

“Yes, it’s too cold for Joy.”

“Do you have any big plans for the weekend?” I tried it again.

“It depends on the weather.”

“The forecast is for sunshine with temperatures around the freezing mark.”

“In that case, I have no plans. How about you?”

“Nothing definite,” I said. The next five minutes passed in absolute silence. “Well, I guess I’d better get to work. I’ll see you on Monday, Nick.”

“I’ll see you on Monday, Dennis.”

~~~

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29 March 2012

The weather this morning was cold and overcast. Nick was sitting on the sidewalk in his usual spot. We greeted each other.

“You haven’t seen Joy today have you?” I asked.

“No,  Joy is a wuss; mind you I wasn’t here yesterday. I wasn’t about so sit in freezing rain and ice pellets.”

“Joy’s been complaining about a sharp pain in her hip,” I said. “It may be arthritis. Sitting on the cold sidewalk wouldn’t help.”

“No it wouldn’t, but Joy has some sort of cushion, doesn’t she?”

“Yes, in her backpack she brings a chair cushion and puts a piece of cardboard under that. Then, of course, she has her blanket.”

“Yes, Joy always has her blanket. I use a rolled-up yoga mat as a cushion. It keeps me from the cold and it’s comfortable to sit on.

“Do you ever go to ‘the benches’ at Orphan’s Green?”

“No, I don’t go there. I know some of those people, but I don’t associate with them much. I’ve known Joy since she was sharing an apartment with someone (Big Frank) in Regent Park. A friend of mine had an apartment in the same building.”

“I don’t seem to be lucky for you today,” I said. “Last time I was here you collected quite a bit of change.”

“There‘s no rhyme or reason to it. There are good days and there are bad days. Summer can be slow because a lot of people are on holiday.’

Nick was humming a tune. I said, “You have a good singing voice.”

“No, I’m no singer,” he said. “I’m banned from most of the karaoke bars; not from the drinking part, from the singing part.”

“The Ontario government has brought down a new budget. Do you have any opinion on that?”

“Well, they’ve frozen ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) for two years. I’m not on that I’m on Family Benefits. We get an increase of about one percent a year. That amounts to a couple of dollars on our monthly check.”

“Do you have any suggestions on how things could be improved?”

“I’m no economist.”

It was time for me to go to work, so I left Nick and said I would probably see him again tomorrow.

At the benches, Shakes said, “I’m celebrating today. I think I may get corked. I went to court this morning and they stayed the charges of obstruction against me. I’ve been on bail since November. I was banned from going anywhere near The African Village Restaurant on Queen Street. At first, I wasn’t allowed within six hundred feet, they reduced that to three hundred, then fifty. This morning the judge said, ‘Shakes, you’re free to go anywhere you want.’ I had three bottles of wine with me while I was in court.

Shaggy was barking at everyone that passed. Wolf said, “Now I got two dogs to walk at five, thirty in the morning, Shaggy and Bear. Weasel brought her over on Friday and asked me If I would take care of her because he had to go back into the hospital. Of course, I complained and said that he should be paying me to look after her, but actually I like having Bear around. In the morning when I take them out Shag wants to go one way, Bear the other. Then they get all tangled up around me.

“What do you think of this weather? We have summer one day, winter the next. (Our temperatures exceeded those of Florida last week, now it is snowing.) There was no way I was going to bring Shaggy down here yesterday. You see how long her coat is. When that gets wet she has an extra fifty pounds to carry, and she’s eleven years old.”

“You have another dog, Bowser, don’t you?” I asked.

“You don’t know about Bowser. That’s Shakes’ dog. It’s stuffed, but I don’t think Shakes knows that. One time he was drunk and he came down the sidewalk with this huge stuffed dog the size of Shaggy. I put it out on my balcony. My apartment is on the second floor over the entrance to the building. The neighbors would see this dog and they’d say, ‘Wolf, why doesn’t your dog bark anymore? They thought it was real.

“I like to come down here and visit with my friends, but I don’t like too many people around. I never have more than three people at my apartment. I like having the dogs around. I see them communicating together and they communicate with me as well. I’ll be in another room and I’ll hear Shaggy’s bowl banging against the wall. She pushes it around with her nose. When I hear that sound I know she’s hungry. You’ve been around animals, you know what I mean.

Shaggy knocked over Wolf’s can of Old Milwaukee, then commenced to lick the pool that formed. Wolf took a plastic bag, poured beer in it, and said, “Okay, Shag if you want to be in the club, you have to drink your beer.” Shaggy lapped the beer contentedly. “See, she understands what I’m saying. You saw that.”

~~~

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27 March 2012

This morning was cold. Joy was wrapped in her blanket.

“I didn’t come here yesterday — too cold. This is a bad day. I came down late, about seven o’clock. I have a crawly feeling in my legs from fibromyalgia and have a sharp pain in my hip. I don’t know what that’s about. I’m only staying here long enough to get enough money to buy some tampons.

“I’ll probably come back downtown, later, to buy some wine. The store I go to doesn’t open until 11:00. The only wine store near where I live sells these fancy vintage wines that cost a fortune. They laughed when I asked for Imperial sherry.

“I don’t know what Roy’s plans are about the house. He took his computer out yesterday. It seems like he’s gradually moving his stuff out. I’m still stuck with feeding his dog, Harley. I bought some crickets for his lizards and some mice for my python. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I’m not giving Roy any money for next month’s rent. All of my stuff fits in Jake’s bag, except for a few trinkets I made while I was in the hospital. I travel light.

“There’s some good news!. The police car hasn’t been parked in front of our house since the weekend. I don’t know what was up with that.

A native man stopped and put two five-dollar bills in Joy’s cap.

“Miigwech!” said Joy. To me, she said, “That means ‘thank you’ in Algonquin.”

The man replied, “Miigwech gaye giin!” which means, ‘thank you to you as well.’

It was time for me to go to work. I stopped briefly to talk with Nick, sitting on the sidewalk. His face was red with the cold, but he’s always polite and cheerful.

On my way to catch the bus, for my physiotherapy appointment, I saw Craig sitting on the sidewalk. We greeted each other then he said, “There’s this restaurant …” I handed him a gift card, “There’s enough here to buy a sandwich and a coffee.”

“There’s this restaurant…”

“I’m sorry, Craig. I’m on my way to an appointment.”

“How much is on the card?”

“Five dollars.”

“Okay.”

~~~

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24 March 2012

 

i do what I can

 

i’m sitting on the sidewalk
as a woman sobs on my shoulder.
i put my arm around her
and say, “it’s okay.”
knowing that nothing is okay,
it will never be okay.

i’m way out of my depth.
i don’t know what to do
or to say.
anything that comes to mind
is shallow and meaningless.
this woman’s experiences
are completely foreign to me.

all I can do is let her cry,
tell her that she has forgiveness,
that what saddens her,
what keeps her awake
or gives her nightmares
is all in the past.
it’s time for her to forgive herself
and love herself
and live
in the present moment.

she can’t go on.
she can’t stand the pain.
she can’t do this anymore.
drink is the only thing
that numbs her mind
enough to endure,
enough to pass out at night
and do it all over again
the next day.

i can only do
and say so much.
it’s always a pleasant surprise
to see her sitting on the sidewalk
knowing that she’s made it
through another night;
that she hasn’t been taken
by violence, sickness
or the police.

i do what i can.

~~~

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