The Dream

I am lying in a comfortable double bed; obviously not mine since I sleep on a mattress on the floor in my current dwelling. Someone is curled up beside me. Our bodies do not touch, but I immediately sense a naked backside and catch a glimpse of pale pudgy skin and well-worn boxer shorts. I myself might be naked, not sure, but I am carpeted and warm in a white duvet and there is a soft pillow under my head. Laid still, with dawns light breezing through an open window and fluttering sheer curtains, I survey the environment.

Not my subsidized one room unit, located in a bedbug, cockroach, and crack infested Toronto Community Housing Corporation high-rise. Still, there is something familiar here, yet I know I have never stepped foot in this particular spot before this hazy moment of awakening. Feels like a haven of sorts! Good, because when the large middle-aged man beside me stirs, rises, opens the bedroom door and walks out pulling it partially shut behind him, I am not afraid. I pretend to sleep, assuming he has gone to pee and will crawl back in beside me soon enough, but he doesn’t and the minutes pass. I don’t feel high. No hangover either. Seemingly sober and sane I now realize who he is. A friend and not a lover. But what has brought us to wake up in a bed that belongs to neither one of us.

No time to ponder. Dreams do not stay put for long. The pace quickens. I am up and out of the apartment in a blur of movement. Down the hall I see an EXIT sign and run towards it. No longer safe. I feel the danger. Fear is the factor and the fright pushes me into flight mode.

So, I awaken. Sensory overload! However, my eyes will not stay open and I cannot raise my head. I succumb and fall back to sleep right where I left off. I will tell you something, scary or not, I do love to dream and this one is going to be a doozy.

The back of the building now. Flashback to the mid-80’s. Late night prowling through the downtown core. A recollection of Regent Park in its seedy past. But this is no longer my stomping grounds, so I stand for a moment, holding the heavy door open behind me, observing the maze of buildings and twists and turns ahead. A light here and there, evidence of life shining through small windows shut with dingy blinds. I let it slam and run from the brightness of the building, the warmth of that bed, and my one companion. I realize I am going to get lost, quickly too with each footstep I take. Regardless, I dive into the darkness of the alleys ahead.

Big mistake girlfriend! Talking to myself now! Panic is setting in. Paranoia could come next.

I am aware that I am clothed and groping my garments as I move along. Empty pockets! No money or cellphone! If I recollect correctly there was a knapsack beside that bed I awoke in. That was a stupid move; leaving things behind. Should have stayed there, searched for my associate, gone into that other room and found out what’s up. I think I did see people; others in that place where I was, down the hall, just past the front door, out of the corner of my eye. They must have known me and might have helped me. I turn to look back but the building is gone. Deep fog clouds my sight and I know I will not be able to find my way inside again.

Up ahead…is that an old Bell Canada telephone booth? Virtually obsolete nowadays! I step inside and lift the receiver. A dial tone greets me and I observe that it takes only twenty-five cents to make a call. I push zero but nothing happens, no operator answers. Loud buzzing piercing my eardrum. I check my pockets again. Just in case. No point staying. I cannot call anyone for assistance. I have no quarters and there is no one about to bum change from, besides, thanks to modern technology my contact numbers are not stored in my memory. Even if I was to reach someone on the other end of the line the connection would be futile. I do not know where I am. Only that I’m lost in a freaky dream; a frequent occurrence for me.

All the while as I flee there is not another soul in sight, neither foe nor friend. Am I alone? This cannot be. There must be someone somewhere? Seeking refuge I run past time-stained and gang-tagged concrete walls, through long dismal walkways between eerily silent high-rises. Finally, an entrance and I rush to open it!

THE NIGHTMARE BEGINS

I enter a shelter of sorts, like a dorm for adolescents. Am I one of them? Do I fit in? The mean looking matron directs me to a room at the top of the stairs and round a bend. A whole lot of girls, just mingling about, and no space on the littered beds; similar to a scene from an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist only the main characters are opposite in gender. One or two acknowledge me. Another moves over, lets me sit on the edge of her sacred spot, whilst assuring me it is okay.

It is not! More stairs, more girls, and mean ones too.  No sanctuary for me and they make it known, “Get the Fuck out. You don’t belong here little Bitch!”

I discover I am carrying something after all. Holding tight to an old and tattered phone-book, bound in brown leather, from years gone by. Numbers no longer available; addresses of people I no longer know. Stuffed inside are a handful of loose papers and one childhood photograph. Reaching the top floor I head into an alcove of unopened doors to enter an empty room, closing and locking that door behind me with a key I have never seen, before placing the relic onto a polished rosewood dresser. Immediately I pick it up again. Is it all I have? Could be scripts from the book I am writing, handwritten and so few of them. Did I lose the rest? Please God, I hope not! I hold tight to what is mine and retreat from the silent spot back into another chaotic scene. I see an open window, out and up onto the rooftop I climb and no one chases me.

Stirring again, with tee-shirt soaked in sweat and shivering on my mattress. Cold terror grips me as I slip back into the nightmare. With the girls cursing and shoving for a split second and then I am somewhere else.

Whoa, wait now, there is an obscure figure approaching, a man hovers before passing without acknowledging my presence. What the Devil is going on? Where the Heck am I? Still unobstructed I race forward, speeding past blurred bodies behind bars, females encased in tiny cells. Crying and reaching out to me, I am compelled to stop abruptly to stare at a beautiful face just inches from mine. The second last woman in the line on the left. An image of blue eyes and blond hair, so clear and familiar it freaks me out. Who is she? Does she know me? My heart bleeds for her, but I am in no position to stay and help. Moving on…

More guards just letting me pass. No doubt, this is one delusion that I have not dealt with before. This time while sleeping I have stepped straight into the loony bin, right out of an 19th century author’s facetious appellation of a lunatic asylum. Pale skeletal arms stretching and hands flapping, babbling visages, more pleas for help. Encountering a patient, then two, inmates they are, sad and shattered individuals wandering aimlessly in the halls, fingers tugging on open robes and flimsy dresses. I skirt to avoid collisions. Eyes vacant and no-one seem to see me.

Nurses too, sturdy hard-hitting ones with permanent scowls dressed in severe outfits. Blue aprons and matching caps carrying handcuffs and black batons. Not hostile, but not friendly either. Frozen smiles, hair pulled back tight under a badge of authority, similar to one of the female police officers who frequently ticketed me for panhandling on the Ramp when I was homeless.

“I want to get back to where the juveniles are,” I implore over and over, “I was innocent.” One by one they glare and label me a “Bad Girl”, “Liar”, and a “Deviant” too, before disappearing. No one cares about my concerns! Must be impossible to go backwards; it is too late and I’m too old for that escape.

The workers are busy and few and I am sure there are cameras too, watching my every move. I am shuffling now like a convict with nowhere to go, creeping like a C.S.I. agent without a gun or a partner. Doors slamming around me, clamoring and bolting shut. It seems that I have tripped over the edge, dropped off that thin marginal line once again. Been there before. If you do not experience nightmares I feel sorry for you. It’s a riot don’t you know?

I enter into a wide ward filled with makeshift rooms; hospital beds behind privacy screens. In my haste I stumble and crash up against a cot where a frail greasy haired old woman is bound and immobile. Stepping back before I tumble upon her, reaching to stabilize myself as she peers deep into my soul. Something is stuck to my shoe and then I accidentally pull down the track and drapery drags behind me as I recoil. Wait, no, it is not a curtain, it is a hospital gown and I shake it off violently while a passing nurse regards me with sudden interest. Do not want anyone to mistake me for a resident and house me here indefinitely.

I see something on the wall above my head. A chute of sorts. Climb up and shimmy down easily. Suspicious. Don’t you think it should have been more of a struggle? Must be a trap!

Down a short ladder and land in the middle of an enormous empty warehouse.

Wait! Looks like the way out is straight ahead….But the sign says ‘ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK – Advance & Proceed WITH caution!’ (Fun Fact: that is the message written graffiti style with purple paint upon my hallway wall at home.)

Real time now… There is an industrial garage door right in front of my eyes, wide-open, leading from inside out. I can see the street, the straggles of early morning traffic and the brightness of a blossoming day. Suddenly it starts to close. I am so exhausted and it really is a long way and has been a torturous journey. Futile to try to make it. No way, no how, but this is a dream and by George I do give it that last attempt before the metal rolls down and shuts out all signs of freedom with an unexpectedly soft clang. Lost and alone, sobbing and broken, slumping to the cold floor with my back up against the wall I am imprisoned and once again under control of an institution. Utter anguish takes over my mind and body and I force myself to wake and stay awake too.

The End!

February 25th, 2022

From my balcony in the west end I can see the sparkling lights of Toronto. It is breathtaking and I feel blessed to be free to live in this magnificent city. Yesterday, the CN Tower was lite with the colors of the Ukrainian flag, blue and yellow, and this evening it is purple and red, in honor of the essential healthcare workers, I think. Standing in the cold air on my balcony, looking out into the night sky,  I shudder at the thought and the media images now stuck in my mind, of another city, so far away, being bombarded, innocent civilians running for refuge and forced to take up arms against their own neighbors with horrendous odds. On a side note, my father’s family was originally from Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Apparently, I myself come from a long line of gypsies!

It’s Canada Day 2021

This morning I awoke with a troubled heart. My Dog Keeba has reached a grand 18 years old, but these last few days her health has been going downhill quickly and I realize the inevitable lies ahead. And, aside from my personal woes, when I turned on the news I saw that Lytton, a small town of 250 people in BC, which less than 48 hours ago made national headlines after hitting the country’s highest heat ever recorded at 47 degrees, it burned to the ground in a matter of minutes last night when a wildfire raged through. No doubt a sure sign of Global Warming in my mind!

Then there is the shameful subject of our country’s role in the compliance, ignorance, and what amounts to genocide of over 1000 and counting Indigenous children, decades ago tore from their tribal lands and family members to die under the hands of representatives of the Catholic Church. On reflection, I was a child myself living in Canada’s capital in a safe white privileged middle-class home and school environment when these atrocities were taking place. I grew up oblivious because history failed to teach the truth in our classrooms! It was not until I took a class on Aboriginal Studies at UWO and befriended survivors, students in my study group who had defied the odds, and then later on the streets of Toronto in my associations with the homeless and some troubled individuals told me bits and pieces of their personal experiences that I began to get a glimpse of understanding. However, nothing would prepare me for the truths that are just now being exposed.

So, whilst today is a day of sadness, and with respect all of us have our own additional tribulations and the world is riddled with injustices, it is Canada Day and I am Canadian! So, I do hope you enjoy because Covid appears to be losing its battle here in Toronto and that in itself is worth celebrating.

Parallel Truths

Recently, I viewed a U-Tube video depicting two police officers brutally arresting a senior, shoving and plummeting the struggling man to the ground before dragging him up a set of concrete steps. Within thirty seconds of watching I told the person who was showing me these disturbing images to turn them off; angry and convinced that this was an atrocity which I  couldn’t continue watching. It was then that I was told the other side to the story. Apparently, the cowering suspect was a convicted pedophile who had committed heinous acts, skipped his court appearance, ran from the police, and was to be brought in to face charges.

That same day I watched a video of a ‘porch pirate’ boldly stealing a package from someone’s front door. He was caught when an eagle-eyed neighbor took down the man’s license plate and called the police. As far as I could tell he was guilty of theft, but it brought to mind an incident closer to home. I’d been waiting for a delivery from Amazon a while back and since I wasn’t going to be home had asked my buddy to watch out for it; as I live in housing where opportunist criminals are a part of the social network and the contents were quite valuable. That afternoon he saw a box outside the door across from me and so walked over to bend down and glance at the address in case it was my order delivered to the wrong unit. It wasn’t, but given that my friend is a young black man I imagine had someone witnessed and perhaps videotaped his actions you and I might be viewing and perceiving the situation differently.

Point being, be skeptical and aware of the possible parallel truths behind the content of what you watch and what you believe on social media.

Saturday!

Things didn’t go as planned on Saturday November 14th, the day after my father’s birthday. I miss him so and the candle was bright that night!

I could hear the young man shouting, “HELP, HELP, HELP,” from inside his apartment at the end of the hall despite the fact that there are numerous paramedics and police officers at his door and other’s standing under the resident’s balcony in case he attempts suicide. Wouldn’t be a nice thing to see if he dares. Brought back memories of 2 years ago when a distraught woman who I knew personally and living above me decided to block her apartment entrance with a heavy dresser and jump from her balcony ending her life in plain view on the bloodied concrete below. Never will I forget that sight and I can only hope she is in more peace than those who bore witness to the incident!

Back to Saturday afternoon in TCHC. Apparently he was taunting, screaming and throwing knifes out the window. Threatening to shoot if anyone tried to enter, which is why the cops knocked upon Cathy’s door (she lives across from this man) and told her to take the dog and get out of her apartment for her “own safety”. I peeked my head out and was instructed to stay inside! When I heard the swat team arrive it was the last straw and decided to cancel an impending visit with my amazing 7 year old granddaughter. My anxiety was at a high level and since the last incident involving this person and the police lasted hours and hours I felt it was for the best.


All resources were at hand and eventually after barricading inside for 3 hours the situation was diffused and the patient carried off in a stretcher, calm as could be with cigarette in hand. I recall meeting his parents when they helped to move him in 5 months ago and they seemed so thrilled he’d found a sanctuary. My heart goes out to all involved. After the fact, in need of fresh air and better vibes, out the side door I went running into 3 more cops who were rather sarcastic when I told them in passing that this whole thing had screwed up my family visit.

Afterthought – When it was mentioned to me later that this kid was white and therefore privileged and deserved more than a free ride to the hospital after all the trouble caused, I agreed. In hand cuffs at the very least! Had he been black the outcome may have been different. Very possible! It is what it is!

Quotes from Streets: Cold Turkey!

Streetgirl was out looking for Jeff today, since she hadn’t seen him for weeks and was starting to worry. Whilst walking she took fall photos with her new camera. A gift from a friend and much appreciated! Such a beautiful day, but once again her homeless buddy was not on his spot at The Ramp. Yet, she couldn’t bring herself to set off towards his humble abode, a tent tucked deep in The Hills. She feared to find him dead inside. One more of her crew biting the dust in 2020. Hoping not!

Instead she took out her sign, unused for months now, and tried her panhandling skills once again. Money is difficult to come by these days as are blessings from strangers with everyone isolating themselves. Half an hour later and all she’d garnered in her cup was a toonie and a chocolate bar. Then she spotted Kid walking across traffic towards her, hand stretched out for a shake despite the hazardous times.

“No hands man. Just give me a hug,” she says in advance and he did!

“I missed you so much. I gotta tell you something,” Kid says with a smile, “I got Me and Frankie off the heroin. Cold turkey!”

The young man’s bright blue eyes are clear and his skin is clean, no runny nose, deep scratches, or pimples. She is so proud of him. It must have been a hard feat considering the demons he has battled from childhood. Just shows what the spirit can do when the mind puts it to the test.

Comes in 3’s

Last night Slinky woke me up banging around in the kitchen trying to reach a big moth that flew in the window and was now circulating the light on the ceiling. Turned that off , thereby shutting him down for a minute and reached into the fridge for juice only to knock the container of milk over. Cleaned that up and went back to sleep, waking in the wee hours to pee and that’s when I stepped into a pile of cat’s puke (must have got a taste of the empty pack of hot sauce on the counter which I had forgotten to put into the garbage while on his adventures – serves him right for walking where he shouldn’t:) He’s fine now, sleeping like a champ. As for me, sure glad things only happen in 3’s!

In Memory of Alex.a.k.Capone

I promised Alex that I would not publish a photo of him while he was alive but sadly he died spring 2020. Took this in 2012; walking the streets that he called home in the vicinity of Lawrence and Allen Road (The Jungle) where he was a fixture panhandling on the Ramp for the past 15 years and known for his sense of humor and love of people (especially fond of the ladies). May you rest in peace my friend!

Pick of the Deck!

What looked like a full pack of cards lay sprawled out upon the lawn.  Most were face down and I couldn’t resist drawing up a singleton to turn over and test my luck. Six of hearts! A low ranking number, but a prize in the roll of the dice and the flush suit is my personal preference when playing the deck. Seemed a positive sign so I stuffed it into my shorts and there it stayed until now. That was a week ago. Since then my daughter has given birth to a baby boy. I had the fortune to be by her side at the hospital during the emotional and blessed occasion and to spend a few days with my granddaughter as well, which may seem a normal occurrence, but not so straightforward during the pandemic.

 Today, after retrieving that six of hearts from my pocket I Goggled the significance of the lone card. The first interpretation (out of over 300,000.000 results) was spot on! According to sevenreflections.com, it is a “birth card” and the “card of a Soul. It represents the Law of Love – the Christ principle, which itself entails sacrifice and selflessness. It stands for a family – Father-Mother-Child principle, for beauty, harmony, order, and completion. It is union and cooperation, adjustment and responsibility.”

A Dog’s Eye View – “What up with that?”

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“Eww, wee, what up with that?”

Heard  that phrase on ‘Saturday Night Live at Home’ back in April in a skit featuring talk show host Diondre Cole a.k.a. Kenan Thompson, comedian and long-time cast member. Gave us a laugh and then wormed its way into my ear. Been my go to COVID jingle ever since!

So, just cause we haven’t posted for several months doesn’t mean our minds are not working, the wheels are turning; important matters are at hand! Mom’s dealing with the new normal as we count the days till 2nd grandchild arrives and she prays she can be there. Living in TCHC is not the same during a world wide virus attack and cause I am now a grand old 17 years she has to carry me up and down the elevator whilst wearing a mask which is hard on her back and difficult for breathing too! But I’m worth it don’t U know? As for Streetgirl, she’s hasn’t been out panhandling for ages and sure does miss the blessings from strangers. And Alex.a.k.a.Capone passed away. An icon on The Ramp which wasn’t pleasant to hear. However, Streets is an artist and inspired by such events.  She’s working on a post called “Altruism be Damned. It’s a Pandemic.”

Stay safe and keep tuned!

A Tercet by Jeff

“Hey, I made up a poem,” Jeff tells me, “put in on your blog.”

Open up your hearts, open up your wallets, and give this poor fellow a hundred dollars.

Fire on the Balcony!

Pyromania is an impulse control disorder in which an individual repeatedly fails to resist the desire to deliberately start fires, in order to relieve tension and gain instant gratification.  Setting fires induces euphoria in a pyromaniac who may tend to fixate on institutions of fire control like fire houses and firefighters.

January 2020 -The siren rang while I was sleeping; admittedly, I recently taped over the alarm inside my door to tame down the tone which was deafening, but I still hear it. We residents have become resistant when it comes to the threat; there have been many false alerts these past few years. However, when I heard over the intercom firefighters were battling a blaze on an 8th floor balcony and that we should all stay in place until further notice, I was concerned. That’s my floor! Certainly it is the work of the man who lives upstairs somewhere above my friend’s apartment at the end of the hall! Continue reading “Fire on the Balcony!”

Untold News!

December 9th,, and I was going to take the Lawrence West Subway to Eglinton West and stop to say hi to Sue who would be  panhandling at the Ramp before going home; she recently confided that she could  have cancer and that sucks! However, the sidewalk out front of the station was packed and a stressed commuter informed me that southbound trains were not running the two stops to St. Clair West; a growing mass waiting to board shuttle buses blocked the entrance.

Time to take a detour! Went up the street to wait for the 109, short bus route and an easy option, as it stops in front of my building, but often delayed on both ends, particularly where the construction and destruction of the expansion makes for traffic chaos. If it didn’t show up fast I’d walk the way which I normally do. Continue reading “Untold News!”

Last Night’s Dream!

The rest of the dream has eluded me, so I begin at the end; pressed against the side of a horseshoe shaped snow covered cliff and dangling precariously.  Carefully, I turn my head to look upon a deep dark inlet below. It’s a long drop! If the crash didn’t kill me, the cold cove water would.  I sense by the feel of the curve of the slope under my body that I am near the top, but encased in a winter coat that could prove slippery and lead to my demise I must continue with caution. Continue reading “Last Night’s Dream!”

Pug with glasses!

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My granddaughter was trying my glasses on her new pug puppy. Look closely and you will see her smiling face!

Purple and Proud!

I graduated from the University of Western Ontario in 1997 with a B.A. in Social Sciences. At least I think that was the year; lost the framed diploma along with my other certificates of educational achievements and most everything else I treasured back in 2010 when I became homeless due to alcohol and drugs, mental health issues, and self-destructive life choices.

Hogtown – Stepping On The Go!

Hogtown

I’ve been a fan of Front Street since stepping off the overnight VIA Rail departed from Montreal for the first time, summer 1980. I had come to Toronto to perform at the Zanzibar on Young Street, or to visit my eldest brother who lived downtown with several other post-graduate students, can’t recall which.  If it was the latter, being hungry after the overnight trip, he likely bought me lunch at St. Lawrence Market. Sitting on a stool eating peameal bacon sandwiches was trendy at the time, as was the exploitation of the female body; an expanding business manifesting from burlesque, striptease and topless go-go girls, to the full blown lucrative phenomenon that was table dancing and I was a key player. One arresting teenage mistake, followed by a jury trial, resulting in a criminal conviction paved the way down that deviant path (but that’s another story). Continue reading “Hogtown – Stepping On The Go!”

A Dog’s Eye View – Afterthought!

“Fill your belly. .. make merry. Let days be full of joy. Dance and make music day and night.”  From the original Old Babylonian version of the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Afterthought: On Freebies – I apologize to my Mother if I arbitrarily portrayed her as a lush, chugging down Beer, Boilermakers, and Mudslides and making merry day and night!  

A Dog’s Eye View – Freebie!

When the 3rd period is too much to take!

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“What better way to pass the day than drinking a tall glass of whisky and beer on ice at Buddy K’s.”  (Most commonly called a Boilermaker/ Originated in Butte, Montana, in the 1890’s, then-called a “Sean O’Farrell” and drunk by copper miners after shift in the heyday of America’s first major industrial city. No ice cubes back then though!)

That’s what Mom said Saturday evening back in March, as we were winding down after a week of  watching over Granddaughter at our humble abode while Big Sis was away solo-backpacking in faraway Thailand. Fortunately all went well with the little one, which is not always the case when living in TCHC where anything can happen to spoil the mood at any given moment.

“Even better when it’s free,” Buddy quipped, in regards to her choice of beverage.  Continue reading “A Dog’s Eye View – Freebie!”

Quotes from Streets: Not Alone

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“I am in the same shoes as you,” he says “struggling too.”

“Life is hard,” the panhandler responds.

The  man  with greying hair wants to talk and Streetgirl is empathetic. One should not righteously receive so much from others without taking the time to return the favor in kind.

“I’ve worked in real estate for 26 years and I haven’t sold one property this past year. I may lose it all,” his eyes begin to well as he holds back tears. They reach out and grasp hands for a second, blessing one another as the light changes and he must move on.

“I know you are going to sell a house real soon,” Streets assures him waving goodbye and hopes that is the case.

 

Quotes from Streets: Farewell Friend

Seeking solace and a blessed place to say her prayers, Streetgirl flew her sign yesterday, straddling the curb and strolling up and down the island. Those same paths that her panning peer, so-tagged The Veteran, had ambled thousands of times. It was chilly,  but they’d been out in far worse weather and enjoyed it too; a freedom of sorts. If it was Joe he would be wearing a toque, thin shirt under a jacket year-round day and night, and sandals without socks; even though someone had given him a pair of boots two months before his passing.  Thrilled to tell the tale, how he’d been snoozing in the sun behind the gas station when a guy came by and offered to take him to Canadian Tire to buy a winter coat and footwear. One of so many kind gestures afforded him by strangers. That night they dumped his dirty smelly old one down the garbage shoot in our building as a ceremonial gesture and he donned the gift until the day he died. Continue reading “Quotes from Streets: Farewell Friend”

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Farewell Joseph. My heart is broken! Never again will I hear your knock at my door and this saddens me so I can barely breath. Rest in Peace.

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Quotes from Streets: Musical Trivia!

A five dollar bill visible in one hand the woman pokes her head partway out the window and says, “Quick question. Who is the composer?”

Never been strong on trivia, perhaps due to perceived trauma Christmas 1980, 20 years old and playing the brand new board game sensation “Trivial Pursuit” with the family, led by an intellectual and dominating father and two older smarty-pants brothers; she was bound to lose. However, today the unmistakable ominous first four notes of “Symphony No. 5” coming from inside the car jogged Streetgirl’s mind to emit an immediate unwavering response.

“Beethoven!”

And the music lover passes the money with a smile, “You win.”

Perspective – Summer 2018

homelesshammock

Looks like an ideal spot for a nap by the lake, doesn’t it? Not! This is a hammock hung by a Canadian Aboriginal homeless man on a steep slope of trees and bushes along the edge of the highway leading to the Allan Road Ramp where he panhandles on a daily basis.

I am lying in a comfortable double bed; obviously not mine since I sleep on a mattress on the floor in my current dwelling. Someone is curled up beside me. Our bodies do not touch, but I immediately sense a naked backside and catch a glimpse of pale pudgy skin and well-worn boxer shorts. I myself might be naked, not sure, but I am carpeted and warm in a white duvet and there is a soft pillow under my head. Laid still, with dawns light breezing through an open window and fluttering sheer curtains, I survey the environment.

Not my subsidized one room unit, located in a bedbug, cockroach, and crack infested Toronto Community Housing Corporation high-rise. Still, there is something familiar here, yet I know I have never stepped foot in this particular spot before this hazy moment of awakening. Feels like a haven of sorts! Good, because when the large middle-aged man beside me stirs, rises, opens the bedroom door and walks out pulling it partially shut behind him, I am not afraid. I pretend to sleep, assuming he has gone to pee and will crawl back in beside me soon enough, but he doesn’t and the minutes pass. I don’t feel high. No hangover either. Seemingly sober and sane I now realize who he is. A friend and not a lover. But what has brought us to wake up in a bed that belongs to neither one of us.

No time to ponder. Dreams do not stay put for long. The pace quickens. I am up and out of the apartment in a blur of movement. Down the hall I see an EXIT sign and run towards it. No longer safe. I feel the danger. Fear is the factor and the fright pushes me into flight mode.

So, I awaken. Sensory overload! However, my eyes will not stay open and I cannot raise my head. I succumb and fall back to sleep right where I left off. I will tell you something, scary or not, I do love to dream and this one is going to be a doozy.

The back of the building now. Flashback to the mid-80’s. Late night prowling through the downtown core. A recollection of Regent Park in its seedy past. But this is no longer my stomping grounds, so I stand for a moment, holding the heavy door open behind me, observing the maze of buildings and twists and turns ahead. A light here and there, evidence of life shining through small windows shut with dingy blinds. I let it slam and run from the brightness of the building, the warmth of that bed, and my one companion. I realize I am going to get lost, quickly too with each footstep I take. Regardless, I dive into the darkness of the alleys ahead.

Big mistake girlfriend! Talking to myself now! Panic is setting in. Paranoia could come next.

I am aware that I am clothed and groping my garments as I move along. Empty pockets! No money or cellphone! If I recollect correctly there was a knapsack beside that bed I awoke in. That was a stupid move; leaving things behind. Should have stayed there, searched for my associate, gone into that other room and found out what’s up. I think I did see people; others in that place where I was, down the hall, just past the front door, out of the corner of my eye. They must have known me and might have helped me. I turn to look back but the building is gone. Deep fog clouds my sight and I know I will not be able to find my way inside again.

Up ahead…is that an old Bell Canada telephone booth? Virtually obsolete nowadays! I step inside and lift the receiver. A dial tone greets me and I observe that it takes only twenty-five cents to make a call. I push zero but nothing happens, no operator answers. Loud buzzing piercing my eardrum. I check my pockets again. Just in case. No point staying. I cannot call anyone for assistance. I have no quarters and there is no one about to bum change from, besides, thanks to modern technology my contact numbers are not stored in my memory. Even if I was to reach someone on the other end of the line the connection would be futile. I do not know where I am. Only that I’m lost in a freaky dream; a frequent occurrence for me.

All the while as I flee there is not another soul in sight, neither foe nor friend. Am I alone? This cannot be. There must be someone somewhere? Seeking refuge I run past time-stained and gang-tagged concrete walls, through long dismal walkways between eerily silent high-rises. Finally, an entrance and I rush to open it!

THE NIGHTMARE BEGINS

I enter a shelter of sorts, like a dorm for adolescents. Am I one of them? Do I fit in? The mean looking matron directs me to a room at the top of the stairs and round a bend. A whole lot of girls, just mingling about, and no space on the littered beds; similar to a scene from an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist only the main characters are opposite in gender. One or two acknowledge me. Another moves over, lets me sit on the edge of her sacred spot, whilst assuring me it is okay.

It is not! More stairs, more girls, and mean ones too.  No sanctuary for me and they make it known, “Get the Fuck out. You don’t belong here little Bitch!”

I discover I am carrying something after all. Holding tight to an old and tattered phone-book, bound in brown leather, from years gone by. Numbers no longer available; addresses of people I no longer know. Stuffed inside are a handful of loose papers and one childhood photograph. Reaching the top floor I head into an alcove of unopened doors to enter an empty room, closing and locking that door behind me with a key I have never seen, before placing the relic onto a polished rosewood dresser. Immediately I pick it up again. Is it all I have? Could be scripts from the book I am writing, handwritten and so few of them. Did I lose the rest? Please God, I hope not! I hold tight to what is mine and retreat from the silent spot back into another chaotic scene. I see an open window, out and up onto the rooftop I climb and no one chases me.

Stirring again, with tee-shirt soaked in sweat and shivering on my mattress. Cold terror grips me as I slip back into the nightmare. With the girls cursing and shoving for a split second and then I am somewhere else.

Whoa, wait now, there is an obscure figure approaching, a man hovers before passing without acknowledging my presence. What the Devil is going on? Where the Heck am I? Still unobstructed I race forward, speeding past blurred bodies behind bars, females encased in tiny cells. Crying and reaching out to me, I am compelled to stop abruptly to stare at a beautiful face just inches from mine. The second last woman in the line on the left. An image of blue eyes and blond hair, so clear and familiar it freaks me out. Who is she? Does she know me? My heart bleeds for her, but I am in no position to stay and help. Moving on…

More guards just letting me pass. No doubt, this is one delusion that I have not dealt with before. This time while sleeping I have stepped straight into the loony bin, right out of an 19th century author’s facetious appellation of a lunatic asylum. Pale skeletal arms stretching and hands flapping, babbling visages, more pleas for help. Encountering a patient, then two, inmates they are, sad and shattered individuals wandering aimlessly in the halls, fingers tugging on open robes and flimsy dresses. I skirt to avoid collisions. Eyes vacant and no-one seem to see me.

Nurses too, sturdy hard-hitting ones with permanent scowls dressed in severe outfits. Blue aprons and matching caps carrying handcuffs and black batons. Not hostile, but not friendly either. Frozen smiles, hair pulled back tight under a badge of authority, similar to one of the female police officers who frequently ticketed me for panhandling on the Ramp when I was homeless.

“I want to get back to where the juveniles are,” I implore over and over, “I was innocent.” One by one they glare and label me a “Bad Girl”, “Liar”, and a “Deviant” too, before disappearing. No one cares about my concerns! Must be impossible to go backwards; it is too late and I’m too old for that escape.

The workers are busy and few and I am sure there are cameras too, watching my every move. I am shuffling now like a convict with nowhere to go, creeping like a C.S.I. agent without a gun or a partner. Doors slamming around me, clamoring and bolting shut. It seems that I have tripped over the edge, dropped off that thin marginal line once again. Been there before. If you do not experience nightmares I feel sorry for you. It’s a riot don’t you know?

I enter into a wide ward filled with makeshift rooms; hospital beds behind privacy screens. In my haste I stumble and crash up against a cot where a frail greasy haired old woman is bound and immobile. Stepping back before I tumble upon her, reaching to stabilize myself as she peers deep into my soul. Something is stuck to my shoe and then I accidentally pull down the track and drapery drags behind me as I recoil. Wait, no, it is not a curtain, it is a hospital gown and I shake it off violently while a passing nurse regards me with sudden interest. Do not want anyone to mistake me for a resident and house me here indefinitely.

I see something on the wall above my head. A chute of sorts. Climb up and shimmy down easily. Suspicious. Don’t you think it should have been more of a struggle? Must be a trap!

Down a short ladder and land in the middle of an enormous empty warehouse.

Wait! Looks like the way out is straight ahead….But the sign says ‘ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK – Advance & Proceed WITH caution!’ (Fun Fact: that is the message written graffiti style with purple paint upon my hallway wall at home.)

Real time now… There is an industrial garage door right in front of my eyes, wide-open, leading from inside out. I can see the street, the straggles of early morning traffic and the brightness of a blossoming day. Suddenly it starts to close. I am so exhausted and it really is a long way and has been a torturous journey. Futile to try to make it. No way, no how, but this is a dream and by George I do give it that last attempt before the metal rolls down and shuts out all signs of freedom with an unexpectedly soft clang. Lost and alone, sobbing and broken, slumping to the cold floor with my back up against the wall I am imprisoned and once again under control of an institution. Utter anguish takes over my mind and body and I force myself to wake and stay awake too.

The End!