Posts Tagged ‘love’

……

6 March 2013

This afternoon I found Weasel and his dog, Bear panning on the sidewalk. I stopped to talk to him and the first thing he asked was, “Have you heard anything about Joy?”

I said that I hadn’t and mentioned that I had phoned the hospital today with no result.

I said, “She has her own place now. She has friends nearby if she has any problems.”

“She has to stop drinking. For the past year, she’s been watering her wine down to almost nothing, but she still gets sick. Her kidneys are ready to shut down. She may have been on dialysis again. I don’t know. Do you have her phone number?”

‘No, I’ve never had a phone number for her.”

Weasel said, “I have a phone, but I don’t have any numbers on it. I barely know how to use it.”

“It’s hard to quit drinking, I just got out of the hospital myself. I was dehydrated. The doctor said, ‘I don’t want to state the obvious, you should quit drinking, but if you have a glass of juice or water, between drinks of alcohol, that will help.’

“The people at the Shawarma Restaurant here kind of mother me. Mia will come out on her break and bring me a bottle of vitamin water or Gatorade. She’ll say, ‘Now, Weasel, I want you to drink this to keep your electrolytes up. I’m going to stand here until you drink it.’ Another waitress will bring me a bottle of something when her shift has ended.

“Little Jake, Wolf and I were talking a while back and we counted fourteen of us who have gone this past year. That’s really sad. I’m not going to last much longer.”

I asked, “Have you seen anything of Claude, lately?”

“No, I haven’t seen him for three or four months. I don’t know what’s happened to him.”

I said, “I visited him in the hospital when he had his last fall…”

“Yeah, he said it was a fall, but nobody falls that much. He was beaten, probably by some of those young punks. He was a nice guy, always quiet, minded his own business, kept to himself.”

 

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……

23 January 2013

This morning on the 176 bus I met Ian. I hadn’t seen him for a long time. He said, “I have to go to Kanata to see my probation officer. I told you, I got six months of probation with community service. I’m at the Oaks Residence where they have a ‘Managed Alcohol Program’– I’m doing really well.”

http://www.shepherdsofgoodhope.com/programs/supportive-living/oaks/

“I can see that. You look good. You must be anxious to get back to moving furniture?”

“Yeah, going to work would be good.”

“How about plans to move back to British Columbia? Do you think that will ever happen?

“No, I like it here.”

“Even in this cold weather?”

“Yeah, I can put up with it.”

24 January 2013

When I got off the bus this morning I was greeted, as usual by Two-four and Metro. They both hand out free newspapers: Metro Ottawa and 24 Hours (no longer published). Two-four said, “Hey, Joy was here yesterday. She’s using a cane now. She only lasted about ten minutes because of the cold.”

“It’s great to hear that she’s out of the hospital.”

“Yeah, she’s looking good.”

Metro was wearing a balaclava. I asked him, “Are you going to rob any banks after your shift?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact, five of them: the Royal, the Imperial, BMO, TD and another one. I can’t remember the name.”

“Well Metro, you don’t need to know the name of a bank to rob it. Good luck with that.”

“Have a good day, Dennis.”

“You too Metro, Two-four. Stay warm.”

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……

 
18 January 2013

Friday night, on the bus, I heard a commotion at the front. My view was blocked by other riders so I couldn’t see what was happening. I heard, “Jesus Christ, can’t you give a guy a break. He’s been hit by a car and just wants to get home. He doesn’t have any money.”

The mood settled down and gradually people exited the bus. To my surprise, sitting across from me were Little Jake and Shakes. We greeted each other, then Shakes said, “Dennis, did you hear what happened to me? Last Wednesday night I was hit by a car at the corner of Merivale and Moriset. The woman driving said she didn’t see me. The piggies drove past and didn’t even stop.”

Jake said, “Shakes, you were dressed in black with your hood pulled over your head. That’s probably the reason she didn’t see you.”

I asked Shakes, “Did you go to the hospital, or see a doctor?”

Jake said, “No, Shakes doesn’t like hospitals or doctors, but you should see his knee, it’s swollen like a grapefruit.”

I said, “Maybe he needs a brace for his knee or crutches.”

Jake said, “He doesn’t want that, he’d rather lean on me. By the way, have you heard from Joy?”

“I went to see her in the hospital before Christmas. She seemed okay, I pushed her in her wheelchair downstairs so she could go for a smoke. I know she has issues about staying alone, especially without furniture.”

Jake said, “I have issues about staying alone. I trashed my apartment last week. I went to see Jenny, my worker, and she’s going to send a cleaning team on Monday morning. She’s really great. They’re going to bring mops and buckets and cleaning supplies. I told her she didn’t have to do that. I’ll have the place cleaned by Sunday, but she wouldn’t listen. She’s arranged for me to see a doctor as well. I’m going to be going to the General Hospital, where Joy is. I know she doesn’t like people to just drop by on her, but if I have a reason to be there, it should be okay.”

I asked, “Jake, do you have your furniture yet?”

“No, I was supposed to contact Jenny the first week of January, but I just wasn’t up to it. I don’t have a phone, so she wasn’t able to contact me. I’ve still just got the bed and the air conditioner, still in its box that I sit on. I don’t have any money, except for a few Tim Horton cards. I go there, have a coffee and watch TV. I pick up butts, that’s all I have to smoke.”

Shakes had his head on his knees and his eyes closed. I said to Jake, “Is Shakes asleep?”

Shakes opened his eyes, “I’m not asleep, it’s just that I’m in pain because of my knee.”

I said, “I’ve been to the park a few times, but nobody has been there except for Magdalene. I talked to her one day. I’ve had a cold, so I haven’t been going out much at noon. I heard that André has an apartment now.”

Jake said, “I haven’t seen anybody since before Christmas. The last time I saw André, he was bumming off us. We didn’t part on very good terms.”

Their bus stop was coming up, so Jake said, “Come on Shakes, let me help you up. We have to get off soon.” Shakes put his arm around Jake and they hobbled off the bus. I was surprised at how much I had missed them.

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……

31 December 2012

The snow was lightly falling at noon, the temperature was around the freezing point with no wind. Jacques, Jacquie, Mariah, Wolf and Shaggy were standing at the heater.

Wolf said to Jacquie, “Is your name like Downtown Jackie Brown? I think that was a movie.”

“No, it’s like Jacquie Kennedy.”

“Hi Wolf,” I said, “Did you and Shaggy have a good Christmas?”

“It was quiet, I haven’t been back here since I saw you last. I dropped over to André’s new apartment. It’s actually Rodent’s old place in the same building as Outcast. They had to gut it when Rodent left. I’m not sure what kind of infestation he had. They replaced the walls, put in a new wooden floor. He has new appliances. I had a few beers with Andre. I sure hope he takes care of the place. It’s like a palace.

“I’m worried that Little Jake is going to be evicted. He has a hydro bill of two hundred dollars that he hasn’t paid. They’ve cut off his power except for his stove. Two hundred dollars seems a lot for three months. I only pay about thirty-one. He has electric baseboard heaters. I’d never get a place with them. They’re expensive. Jake’s got to get that sorted with his worker. I’m surprised that they aren’t covering his hydro.”

I said to Wolf, “Weasel has a nice place too, doesn’t he?”

Peter said, “Well, it’s smaller, it has carpet. He has a dog. That’s hard on a carpet. It’s not just the dog hair, but the wet, muddy feet. Darrell’s not much of a housekeeper.

“I’ve had my place over three years and I wouldn’t be embarrassed to invite you over. It’s reasonably tidy and well taken care of.”

I asked Jacques, “Have you heard from Joy, lately? Has she phoned you?”

“No, but Bruce is supposed to go visit her. I guess she’s still depressed.”

“So, how was your Christmas, Jacques?” I asked.

“Same old, same old. I was here on Christmas with my Santa hat on, but I left. Everybody has apartments now, so they didn’t come down here. I was looking for the chicken man, but I didn’t see him either.”

I asked, “Has the security guard been by yet?”

“No, not yet. He doesn’t usually come by. Now it’s the city cops giving out tickets for trespassing. They have them all made out ahead of time. They gave one to Shakes. It was just written out to ‘Shakes’. I don’t think that will hold up in court.

“How about you, Mariah?” I asked, did you have a good Christmas?”

“It was just me and my son, so it was quiet.”

Jacqui asked, “Didn’t you have Charlie with you?”

“No, I kicked him out two and a half months ago.”

“I’m so sorry,” said Jacquie.

“I’m not,” said Mariah, “He was someone who could just suck the energy out of a place. Do you know what I mean?”

Wolf said, “I know what you mean. It can really affect your health when you live with someone like that.”

“Yeah, I was tired all the time, was getting colds. I was tired of being in debt. I’m a bit lonely now. It was nice to have someone to snuggle up to, but I can live with being alone.

“Another thing, when I lived with Charlie I was always cold. Mind you, we had our bed on the floor, that can make a difference. Now I sleep on a bed that folds into a couch when I don’t need it for sleeping. I think just being a foot higher makes a big difference.”

Wolf pulled his toque off and said, “Has everybody seen my new haircut? I went to the barber shop on Montreal Road, across from the bank. There’s a little Lebanese lady that runs it. Just twelve dollars for a haircut. She asked me, ‘How do you want your hair to look?’ I said, ‘Do anything you want.’ That put a smile on her face. When I left I said, ‘See you again next year.’ It’s been a year since I last had it cut.”

Mariah said, “I’ve stopped having my hair cut. I think the last time I had it done was 1994. It’s long, but it doesn’t grow anymore. I don’t have it colored or anything. If I get split ends I use some of that beef marrow shampoo. That seems to repair all the damage.”

I said, “I like the grey in your hair. It looks a lot more interesting than if you had it dyed all one color. If you had to pay to have your hair colored, like you have it naturally, it would cost a fortune.”

Mariah said, “They say that when men have gray hair they look distinguished. When women have gray hair they just look old.”

“I don’t agree, I think your hair looks beautiful.”

“It really does,” said Wolf.

Jacques pulled off his sheepskin hat to show off his bald head. I have a set of clippers. Every couple of months I cut Shark’s hair, just cut it all off. I’ll do the same with mine one day.”

Jacquie said, “Jacques, Your hair is really long at the back, but it’s so little.”

“It’s so little,” repeated Jacques, “that’s the story of my life.”

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……

 
28 December 2012

The sun was shining at noon. The temperature was 16 degrees Fahrenheit. It was pleasant as long as one stayed in the sunshine and out of the shadows. At the traffic island were five of my street friends. I asked Hippo, “Did you have a good Christmas?”

“Yeah, it was good. My mom, my dad and my sister came over. They brought me a coffee table and two end tables.”

“How about you, Jake? Did you have a good Christmas?”

“I had a shitty Christmas. On Christmas day they turned my hydro off, so I have no lights. I’ve been there for three months. I haven’t even seen a hydro bill. My stove still works. I guess they aren’t allowed to let people freeze in the winter. I’ve got three outlets on my stove, so I can plug in my coffee maker, my toaster and my radio. That’s all I really need. My worker is out of town now. I hope she can get this sorted out.

“I got a money order for four hundred dollars. I hid it in my closet. I’m saving that to pay the rent.”

Hippo said, “Hey, Jake, do you need a dresser?”

“No, thanks buddy, but the first week of January I’m supposed to get my new furniture. I’ll have to tidy up a bit. When I found out the hydro was off I went a bit crazy. Can you blame me? I broke my broom, my lamp and kicked a lot of other stuff around.

“On top of that, I was over at Shakes’ place drinking with him and a friend of his. They asked me to go out for a smoke run. They gave me fifteen bucks and I went to Mac’s Milk. I bought the smokes and brought them back the change. The next morning I saw my loose change on the window sill, but I didn’t see any bills. There should have been eighty bucks. I went through all my pockets, but there were no bills. I thought back and the only thing I can think of is that it fell out of my pocket at Mac’s. I was drunk, so I may have missed my pocket. The guy in line behind me must have been happy. That’s the first time I’ve lost money in a long time. I lived on the street. If there is one thing I take care of it’s money.”

“How about you, Jacques?” I asked, “How was your Christmas?

“I was at ‘the heater’ with Bearded Bruce. I was wearing my Santa hat. A guy came by and wanted to take my picture. He had one of those collector cameras that you look down into. He turned a lot of funny buttons, then ‘click.’ He said he’d come by and give me a sample. You’ve never seen me in my Santa hat?”

“No,  Jacques,  I haven’t

“Chester,” I asked, “did you have a good Christmas?”

“Yes, I did. My daughter took me out to Mother Tucker’s in the market. We had dinner, then she took me to the Chateau Laurier. She’s only twenty-three years old and she has her own fitness business.”

“Do you get to see her often?”

“Whenever she can fit me into her schedule.”

Big Chester asked, “Have you seen Joy lately?”

“I was at the hospital two weeks ago. I hope to go there this weekend. How about you?”

“I haven’t seen her. I don’t have any bus tickets.” I gave him four.

Jake said, ” Did I tell you about my cat?”

“Yes, I knew you had a cat named Spaz. You have a cat too, don’t you Rhino?”

“I had one, he came mewing at my door at 2:30 one morning. I took him in. When he shit on my floor I threw him out.”

Jake said, “This cat of mine likes to sleep on the pillow next to me and purr. I’ve never had that before. She also likes to smell my breath.”

I said, “She must like sherry.”

“Yeah, I guess so. She was running around, so I fed her some Tender Vittles and she settled right down. She’s just a kitten but she has sharp claws. See these marks on my arm? Those aren’t from bed bugs, they’re from my cat. I think I’ve also got a scratch by my ear. Can you see it?”

“Yes I see it,” I said.

“I’ve got a cat now,” said Big Chester, “But he doesn’t scratch.”

Jacques said, “Did you see that! The bus just ran over that bicycle! I don’t know if there was anybody on the bicycle, It doesn’t matter. It may have been pointing the wrong way, but that’s no reason to run over it.”

Jake said, “Jacques, you’re drunk. Nobody listens to you when you’re drunk.”

“I may be drunk, but I know what I see.”

“Jake,” I asked, “did the bus run over the bicycle?”

“No, that’s Oscar’s bicycle. The bus didn’t run over it. Oscar stopped to talk to someone on the sidewalk. He picked up his bike and rode away.”

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……

20 December 2012

At noon the weather was pleasant. At ‘the heater’ were Jacques, Shakes, Wolf and his dog Shaggy.

“Dennis,” Wolf said, “I was at my usual place panning this morning and from seven o’clock to ten thirty I made more money than I usually make in a week, I made three hundred and forty dollars — in just those three and a half hours. It only happens at Christmas, that’s the only time people feel generous.”

Jacques said, “That was the same with me when I first came to town. I was panning with my dog, near Christmas time. I made seven hundred dollars. It’s never happened since.”

“Jacques, do you have any plans for Christmas?”

“No, I’ll be here. For me, it’s a day like any other.”

I asked, “Will you be going to any of the special Christmas dinners at the Shepherd’s or at the Mission?”

“The Shepherds had their big meal last week, and the one for the Mission was yesterday. I always hear about them a day too late. I may go to the Mission for breakfast on Christmas, that’s all. When Pikpik was around we used to celebrate, but he’s not around anymore. Maybe we’ll go to Shakes’ new place. It’s big. I only have a room and I don’t like cigarette smoke. All these guys smoke. I don’t even have a window that I can open. There’s plywood where the window used to be. Shakes has a big patio door that he can open. The smoke has a way out then.”

“Jacques,” Shakes asked, “If you smoke pot, why is it that smoke doesn’t bother you?”

“It’s just different. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I smoke it from a pipe.”

Shakes said, “When I was fourteen, I was in a juvenile home. The guy who ran it had a collection of maryjane pipes, really nice ones. I stole one of them one time. He knew exactly who took it. He came knocking on my door. ‘Shakes,’ he said, ‘I know you stole my pipe. Now give it back.’ I never gave the pipe back to him, ha, ha, ha.”

Jacques said, “I used to have about twelve pipes, but with all the moving around I lost most of them. I make them out of river rock. I find the nice smooth ones, then I drill them until they break. All I have is a drill. To make the sides smooth I rub it against a concrete wall. It acts just like sandpaper.

“You see here, a pot pipe has a larger hole in the stem. Resin collects there. even after the last of the pot has been smoked, holding a flame to the bowl will light the resin. You can get a buzz just from that. This pipe has been broken, see the crack, so I fixed it with glue. It works fine.”

“Dennis,” said Shakes, “Will you do me a big favor? When you’re ready to leave, will you walk with me to the World Exchange and buy a forty of J.D. for me. I’ll give you the money.” He is barred from the liquor store.

Shakes is barely able to walk at the best of times. His knees give out on him, so I agreed. When it was about twenty minutes before I had to be back at work I asked Shakes, “Are you ready to go now?”

“Dennis, would you mind going by yourself and bringing the bottle back to me?”

“I guess I have time. Sure, Shakes.”

Wolf said, “Are you going to the World Exchange? Would you mind bringing me back six cans of Old Milwaukee?”

I hadn’t thought about the Christmas line ups I’d have to face in the liquor store. I made the run and was only five minutes late for work.

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……

13 December 2012

Jacques, Wolf and Shaggy were my only friends at the park today. The sun was shining and Jacques was enjoying the warmth.

“I’m always happy, me, especially when the sun is shining. I come down here — where else am I going to go? I was looking in the Loblaws flyer today, they got the big lasagna and the big cabbage roll, the five-pound one for seven dollars. I love that, but living alone, I can’t eat that much. Even Hippo he can’t eat that much. At the market, I buy camembert and brie, the round ones. At Loblaws it costs four seventy-five — me, I can’t afford that, but at the market, they sell the ones near the expiry date that they can’t sell in stores, two for five dollars. I leave it at room temperature for two days and spread it on crackers. That’s my favorite.”

Wolf said, “I don’t like cheese that much. The only kind I buy is mozzarella, and on a hamburger, I’ll have cheddar.”

“You like mozzarella, that stuff they shave? It tastes like puke.”

“I like it, okay? I know, I’m German, they make lots of cheese, but I just like Mozzarella. You don’t have to like it, but it’s what I like.

“Jacques is supposed to be watching his cholesterol. I’ve heard of beef stew, chicken stew even rabbit stew, but have you ever heard of someone making bacon stew? If his doctor knew that, he’d flip.

“I eat bacon every day. I like to fry it and then cook my eggs in the grease. That’s what gives them the good taste.”

Jacques said, “In my place, you’re not supposed to cook after ten o’clock, but at one thirty I woke up and smelled grease. The young guy was frying something. He’s not a very good cook, but the smell of that grease frying sure smelled good. He left his frying pan and dishes in the sink for another day.”

I asked, “Has anybody heard anything from Joy lately?”

Jacques said, “I went to the hospital to see her this morning. She was looking okay. She’s moving around a bit.”

I asked, “She isn’t walking yet, is she?”

“She uses a walker. She seems weak on her left side. Her left foot she kind of drags. They told her that she can’t drink anymore, but already she told me that she has two bottles of sherry in her fridge at home. They want to keep her over Christmas. She say she want to be out to spend it with friends and have a few drinks. The drinks might kill her.”

Wolf said, “Sometimes they’ll do that, let patients out for Christmas, but in her case, it isn’t such a good idea.”

I said, “When the doctors told her she wasn’t allowed to drink, she said, ‘You told me that last time and I got ten months, without coming back here.’ So she has no intention of quitting.”

Wolf said, “People are different, what hurts one, may not hurt another. It’s the same with animals. Weasel really gave me shit for giving Shaggy a little piece of chocolate. I can’t see the problem of giving her just one little chunk. It’s not like I’m giving her a whole chocolate bar.”

Jacques said, “I saw on TV, a doctor was saying that for some dogs, the sweetness of the chocolate turns into a poison inside the dog, but it’s not all dogs.”

“Well, Shaggy’s had chocolate before and it didn’t kill her, so I guess she’s not one of those dogs.”

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……

28 November 2012

I was expecting Stella to be visiting Weasel and Bear today, so I took my lunch hour at ten o’clock. Nancy greeted me with, “Joy just phoned. She sounds a lot better, complaining as usual. She called Jacques, then he passed the phone to the rest of us.”

I said, “I visited her last night.”

“Yes, she mentioned that. I don’t think that Joy is good at living alone. She needs people to make decisions for her. I don’t think she’s had to do that before. I love to have free time to myself, but I’ve had practice.”

I shook hands with Inuvik but I couldn’t remember his name. “Hi,” I said I’m Dennis.”

“I’m Inuvik.”

I said, “I remember, you’re Nuisance.”

“That’s right, you remember!”

“Dennis,” said Outcast, “I talked to Joy this morning and I gave her shit. I wasn’t like some of these people saying, ‘Poor, Joy, I’m sorry you’re in the hospital, sorry you’re sick.’ I told her she had it coming. She didn’t listen to the doctors last time and she probably won’t listen to them this time. She has to quit drinking; never mind watering it down, she has to quit entirely. You can only damage your kidneys so many times then they shut down. She’s had her last wake up call. She’s stubborn, thinks she can do anything she wants and it won’t have any effect on her health.

“I went to her place on Saturday with a bag of groceries. I could see her moving around in there, but she wouldn’t answer the door to me. If she wants to be like that, it’s the last time I bring groceries. I hear she let Buck in. I don’t know what’s up with that.

“By the way, did you notice my new boots. They’re really warm. 59 bucks at Wal-Mart. They had $39, $49 all the way up to $100, but those were really heavy. I do a lot of walking, when I picked these up, I couldn’t believe how light they were.

“I won’t be going to the hospital. Debbie went for a colonoscopy last week and I stood outside for three hours. Any virus that’s around I’ll pick it up. I can’t take the chance.”

I said, “Joy mentioned that she was quarantined when she first came in. It’s a virus that she picked up at the hospital last time. She didn’t mention the name.”

Outcast replied, “That’s enough reason for me not to go. Have you heard that we’re getting more snow this afternoon?”

“I know we had some between nine and ten o’clock.”

“That was nothing. They’re predicting seven feet. We won’t even be able to see André. He’ll have to get one of those reflecting rods that they use for the snow plows.

“By the way, I get my new dentures next week. It’s all covered by the government. I thought I’d have to get all my teeth pulled because of pyorrhea, but they filled two cavities and said I was good to go. The reason the government paid for my dentures is because I said I couldn’t eat, which isn’t exactly true. I have two molars. That’s all I really need for chewing. I’m missing my front teeth so I can’t eat corn on the cob or apples.”

Nancy said, “Outcast, it’s not all about you.”

“Of course it’s all about me. It always is.”

Jacques said, “I really miss eating corn on the cob. I have to cut the corn off with a knife then add salt and lots of butter.”

André said, “That’s the same with me. You should see when I try to eat corn on the cob. Because I’m missing my top front teeth, I leave a strip in the middle about an inch wide. Only a few niblets on the edges get into my mouth, so, like Jacques, I cut it off with a knife then add lots of butter and salt.”

Outcast said, “That sounds good for your cholesterol level. I’m not supposed to eat salt because of my blood pressure, but I eat it anyway. I’ve heard that sea salt is better for you.”

Stella said, “Yes, I’ve heard that too. It tastes better and is a bit coarser.”

I said to Mariah, “You’re in the same building as Joy. How long have you lived there?”

“Three years.”

“You must be relatively happy there to have stayed for three years.”

“The first couple of years were with my old man, but he’s gone. I didn’t mind the company, but he kept running us into debt. I don’t miss that.

“I’ve gone to the hospital for Willie and John. I don’t do that anymore. I feel bad that Joy’s in hospital, but she has to take care of herself. I’m not going to do it.”

Outcast was on the phone to Chester, “Are you coming down today? Remember you owe me twenty bucks. No, not from last week, from the week before. I don’t want to come all the way to your place. Okay, you’ll be down for sure tomorrow? I’ll see you then. Don’t forget! Don’t spend it all tonight!

“That’s the problem with lending money to people. They either forget they owe it to you, or you just don’t see them. He’s drunk already and I could hear another voice in the background. He said I could pick it up at his place, Maybe I’ll do that.”

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……

26 November 2012

Monday morning and Joy isn’t in her usual place. I wasn’t surprised, Mondays are noted as being bad days for panhandling. People tend to be grumpy because of having to come back to work after the weekend.

At noon I met Jacques and André at the traffic island. Jacques said, “Did you hear about Joy? She’s in hospital. They take her there by ambulance yesterday to the Civic. She phoned me this morning. It’s about her kidneys, she said that they were so sore she couldn’t get up. She didn’t have a room yet. They had her all night in the corridor.”

I said that I’d phone the hospital and see if I could get any information. André said, “Me, I don’t go to hospitals, but because it’s Joy I’ll see if I can visit her sometime.”

Jacques said, “It’s bad for her. This is the third time in a year that she’s been hospitalized for the same thing. The doctors told her she should move somewhere else and stop drinking; but, it’s hard to leave your friends, go to someplace where you don’t know anybody, but it’s her body telling her that she can’t drink anymore. It doesn’t matter if she waters it down, she has to stop completely.”

I said, “She’s been waiting so long for her health card. She drinks to forget her past. She drinks because of the pain in her legs and she drinks to get to sleep at night.”

I asked André, “Where have you been staying?”

“At the Sally. It hasn’t been too bad. I’m in bed 256, in a room with just one other guy. When he starts snoring it’s not just sawing wood it’s like a Husqvarna chain saw. He’s a big guy and makes a lot of noise just rolling over on those plastic covered mattresses.

“Yesterday I was at the Library. I knew I couldn’t get back in time to sign for my bed, so I phoned them. They said, ‘No problem, André, we’ll put you down for another night.’ When I got there they had cut my lock and were hauling my stuff out of the room. They told me, ‘You can’t sign in until seven o’clock, so I had to sit in the lobby with all of my stuff until then. Meanwhile, there’s another guy sitting across the room. They ask him if he’d like a bed. I said, ‘Hey, I’m waiting for a bed, now you’re giving my bed away to someone else.’ The guy said, ‘I was here first.’ I said, ‘What do you mean you were here first. I’ve been here for six years. I’ve grown roots in the cracks of the floor here.’ Anyway, they gave him a bed in the basement and where do you think they put me? In the same bed they just kicked me out of.

“I’m thinking that I should talk to my workers about getting me a room until an apartment becomes available. I’ve got to get something started because they’re cutting off the start-up allowance in the new year. It’s one of the government cutbacks.”

“Hey, hey,” said Jacques, “The last start-up check is going to be issued December 15, so you have to apply before that. If you apply later there is a good chance you’ll be rejected.”

I asked Jacques, “You’re in a bachelor apartment aren’t you?”

“No, I’m in a room for now, but I’d prefer to be in a bachelor. We share a kitchen with two sinks, one side is always full of dirty dishes. I don’t like that. I like to have my own place, so I can keep it tidy, or not — whatever I want.

“They didn’t want to give me a start-up allowance, because I was coming from a bachelor to a room. They thought that I should have everything I needed. I told them that I had to throw away most of my things because of the bed bug. They said, ‘There’s no report of you having the bed bug.’ They sprayed three times, but my landlord didn’t give me a paper saying that. I could have gotten two hundred dollars if I had that paper.”

Timmy stopped by on his bicycle. I asked him, “How was your weekend, Timmy?”

“It was okay, quiet. The chicken man was by yesterday morning.”

“I asked, “Was he handing out five dollar bills?”

André answered, “No, just fried chicken. He only hands out five dollar bills on special occasions, like Christmas, Easter — on Mother’s Day he’ll give one to the ladies; on Father’s Day, the men get one. Last year the owner of Gabriel’s Pizza came to ‘the heater’ with four large pizzas. I was the only one there. He said, ‘Make sure you share these.” Did he think I was going to eat four large pizzas? I said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll share them.’ If I didn’t I’d probably get my head kicked in.

“I haven’t seen Little Jake today. I wonder how he’s doing?”

I said, “He seemed to be feeling a little better on Friday.”

André said, “He’s taking a powerful dose of antibiotics, but he’s still drinking. I said to him, “Jake if you drink, you’re canceling out the benefit of the antibiotics.” He’s taking other daily medication every day as well. He sees his doctor every day.”

I asked, “How are you feeling, André?”

“I’m feeling okay now. When I had walking pneumonia I had a pain in my chest like a red-hot, iron rod going through my lung. I was in real pain. I could only take shallow breaths. I still don’t have full use of my lungs. Jake may have something different from what I had, I don’t know.”

I phoned the Ottawa Hospital – Civic Campus. I was informed that Joy was doing okay. She is still in the Emergency Department, Medicine Service. They are still waiting for a bed for her. I will try to visit her tonight.

It’s about 6:30 pm. I took the number 6 bus to the Civic Hospital. I went to the Emergency desk, was given a pass and told to follow the green dots on the floor. The receptionist at the Medicine Department desk directed me to bed 116. The curtains were closed, so I asked a nurse what I should do. She said, “Just call her name, she’s resting.” I called and heard a faint, “Dennis?”

I stuck my head behind the curtain. Joy said, “I thought I heard your voice, but I thought, That can’t be. I wasn’t expecting you to visit.”

“I said I would, if you were ever in the hospital again, and here I am.”

“Have a seat over there. Just move my stuff to the other chair. I’m in so much pain. These doctors — there have been five of them, so far — they keep asking me the same questions. I asked one of them, ‘Don’t you guys talk to each other?’ The guy said, ‘We do, but we have to hear it first hand.’ They keep asking, ‘When did you have your last drink?’ I said, ‘Friday.’ They asked, ‘How often a day do you drink?’ I said, ‘Once.’ They asked, ‘How much do you drink each day?’ I said, ‘A bottle, a bottle and a half, two bottles, it depends on how I’m feeling.’

“I was feeling sick on Sunday. I went upstairs to Mariah’s place. It must have taken me forty-five minutes to climb the stairs. She said, ‘You look like you’re in pain!’ She gave me two Tylenol 3’s. They didn’t do anything. She said, ‘Go back downstairs and try to get some rest.’

“Then Buck and Dillinger came over. (Joy rolled her eyes.) He brought me some Ensure and some pears. We smoked a joint together and he left me half a gram. I’ve still got it in my bag.

“I just kept feeling worse and worse. Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore. My cell phone didn’t have any time on it, but the emergency numbers still worked. They asked me for my phone number. I couldn’t remember it.

“When I first came in they gave me a shot of Dilaudid. I threw my guts up but felt better after that. Then they gave it to me in pill form. That didn’t do anything for the pain, but made me feel nauseous, caused my mouth to dry up. I need morphine, but I told them I’d also need some Gravol. I tried to eat some of the meatloaf they served for supper. I took two bites, that’s all I could handle.

“I can’t sleep. I’m not even on a proper hospital bed. This mattress is thin and hard. I ache all over, my legs, my back, it’s even into my neck now. They had me out in the corridor for a long time before bringing me in here. The guy beside me coughs all the time. They have me in some kind of quarantine, because of a virus I picked up the last time I was here. It’s contagious for people with a low immune system.”

Al, a male nurse came in to take Joy’s blood pressure. It was 188 over 113. He said it’s coming down. It was 244 over 113. He said, “They have a bed for you now. You’ll be moved soon. I’ll try to get them to hurry with your meds. It’s medical students who are working on it. They can be slow.”

Joy said, “Thanks, Al.”

” To me, she said, “He’s cool. He lets me know what’s really going on.

“I want to go out for a smoke. Is it cold outside?”

“It’s been snowing.”

“I don’t care. Can you bring my wheelchair over and help me to the front entrance. While I’m outside could you do me a big favor? I’d really love a Tim Horton’s steeped tea, with one milk and two sugar. The stuff they serve at Starbucks is garbage. I’ll meet you back here at my bed.

After the cigarette and tea, another nurse came in to check Joy’s heart rate. I felt that she needed some privacy, so I said that I’d come back tomorrow.

“I need some stuff from home, especially a tooth-brush. I don’t know how to get them.”

I said, “If Mariah can pack some things and bring a bag downtown, I’ll bring it to you here at the hospital.”

“We’ll work something out. Thanks for bringing me the tea. I’m going to try to get some sleep now. I’ll see you tomorrow?”

I said, “I’ll be here.”

” I’ll see you then. Hopefully, I’ll be better at making conversation.”

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……

25 November 2012

It’s Sunday, I don’t get to see my friends until tomorrow, but I miss them. I wonder where Shakes slept last night. Was it in a bank kiosk? I also wonder where André slept last night. Perhaps, it was behind the dumpsters in the back of Starbucks. I wonder if Joy slept last night since the temperature went below freezing. I’ve slept in a tent in those temperatures and know that it isn’t life threatening if one has the proper sleeping bag and warm clothing. I can also remember shivering so much that I couldn’t get to sleep. There wasn’t anything I could do to improve my situation at the time.

When I read over my previous entries I realize just how important my friends are to me. Despite their addictions, their choices and what life has thrown at them; they are doing the best they can with what they have. Can any of us do any better? They are always entertaining and a joy to be with.

Several colleagues at work have seen me sitting with Joy before I go to work in the mornings. They ask about her story. I give them a condensed version of the facts as I know them. They ask, “Do you believe that what she says is the truth?” I have known Joy for two years now. When she tells her stories there are variations, perhaps due to memory, perhaps due to the amount she’s had to drink, the amount she wishes to reveal; but in essence, what she has told me is consistent and I don’t believe her to be a great actress who can pull tears out of nowhere.

I’ve been asked, “Are these people dangerous?” I know that several have committed murder. Two have served sentences of twenty and twenty-five years in prison. Another wasn’t charged but has lived with the guilt, even attended the dead man’s funeral and met his family. These people, my friends, are capable of murder. I am capable of murder. Most people, in certain situations, especially under the influence of drugs or alcohol, are capable of murder.

I know that if I was in a desperate situation, any of my friends would do their best to protect me, or help me, with whatever resources they had. They’ve offered food, drink and protection on many occasions.

I don’t really know why I am drawn to the park at noon hours. I say that the conversations there are more interesting than what I hear at work. That is certainly true. More than that I see raw life, without a safety net. Like Silver, who died September twenty-ninth, at the age of fifty-two, most of my friends are only too aware that they won’t see sixty. Many are surprised and sometimes disappointed, that they made it through the night. I enjoy sharing the time they have left. I am honored to have made their acquaintance.

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