The other day, I met a guy I used to know from when i worked a the mental health drop-n. I left there nearly a decade ago now, but I still see folks on the street that I know from there. We talk.
So, i saw Steve. He’s a big guy, red faced, mostly he has a couple of days worth of beard. His eyes don’t work as a team, and he usually scoots around on a bike. He’s got a big belly and wears mesh caps. Nice guy, I always thought, not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but good, you know?
And I said, “hey! how ya doin’?”
“ah. Not so good,” he said. Then I noticed that his wandering eye was nearly closed and his ‘good’ eye was all bloodshot and sleepy looking. “My brother died, eh, John, you remember him?”
of course I did. Handsome, tough, wore his hair in the same mullet he’d had since 1985–He was so tough, how the hell?
“Don’t know,” said Steve, “they’re just gonna do an autopsy, eh” He said that John had been partying with some guys, and passed out or something, and one of these guys had just kicked him in the head a couple of times. “he never got a break” said Steve, shaking his big head, “never got a break”.
John sometimes worked for West Coast Amusements, running the rides when the fair would roll into towns like Duncan or Port Moody, Williams Lake or Golden. Sometimes he’d drive an ice cream truck. Sometimes he’d just drink and sleep in the loading bays of the warehouses along Powell Street. He had places the same way he had jobs. Sporadically. The bottle got hold of him and he lost his grip on everything else.
“I ain’t cried yet,” he said, “my mom, eh, she hasn’t stopped cryin’ and my sister she’s pretty stressed out…I guess i’ll cry sometime, I don’t know why I haven’t”.
John and Steve are poor men. They don’t have a lot of power in the world. Neither of them learned to read or write so good. They drank. a lot. Steve told me, “I haven’t had a drink, eh, in about six months.” I asked if he went to meetings.
“No. I pray, though, eh. Pray to God. A lot”.
I told him good for him. I said he deserves a better life, that John deserved better too. That I was so sorry for his loss. Felt awkward and inadequate.
As he left, Steve said to me, “I love you.” He’s NEVER said that to me. He meant it, too.
“I love you too, man.” I said.
and I meant it, too.