30 Jul No Destination
Morning came early as he stepped out of the local shelter he called home that night. He slung his backpack over his shoulder and paused for a moment to allow the sunshine to warm his face. He stretched his weary body and realized, he could sleep for days and still feel tired. He’s not homeless as most think he is. He has a place he used to call home, a cabin that sits on his families’ trap line an hour away in Philomena. So many memories of hunting, trapping, laughter and stories around the campfire, but that was a lifetime ago. He could go back there but the ghosts of his loved ones take up too much space, so he calls the streets of Lac La Biche home.
He has no purpose or destination, only what the day brings him but the sudden rumble in his stomach reminded him he hasn’t eaten in a few days so he sets out on his way. As he walks, his thoughts take over and the squeaky wheels of his shopping cart fill the morning silence. He is collecting bottles and most days, that is how he earns his money. It’s hard work for a man who feels older than his age so he walks slowly, for on his shoulders he carries the weight of a world that won’t forgive him for color of his skin.
Most days, he feels utterly alone, even when surrounded by people. They pass him by and at times he is invisible to them, who can blame them, he is even invisible to himself. He sees the looks on their faces, fear, disgust and once in a while, sorrow. Sometimes, people will go out of their way to walk across the street to avoid him. He doesn’t care though, they can’t hurt him, his heart stopped living a long time ago.
Everyone has a story they say, and he has many. He could tell you story after story and he replays them in his mind because the pain of remembering them, remind him, he’s still alive. Like the time he was supposed to be in the same vehicle with two of his best friends who were killed in a car accident or when his brother fell off a scaffold and he watched him die two days later or the day his mother took her last breath.
His mother was his whole world. She was a strong and fearless metis woman and the love for her family was unconditional. She taught him how to hunt, trap and tend to everything that was needed and his mind drifted to the last time he saw her. His dad brought him in to see her and with tears streaming down his face, he slowly walked into the hospital room. He almost didn’t recognize her. She looked so small and fragile and he was terrified. With the back of his had, he wiped his tears away for fear of being made fun of but inside, his heart was breaking. He wasn’t ready for her to be taken away but they said, there was nothing more that could be done. She could sense him and slowly opened up her eyes and whispered, “there’s my boy”. Her trembling hand reached out to touch his face. After that day, he never saw her again.
Everyone he loved had been taken away from him and he suffered in silence, doing the only thing he was sure of and that was drink. He was 3 years old when he was given his first taste of what would end up ruling his life for 47 years. Alcohol was everywhere and at the age of 7 years old, his brothers bet him he couldn’t drink a bottle of beer and to impress them, he did. He passed out and woke up 3 hours later.
So he drank to forget, drank to numb the pain, drank to not give a damn anymore and he convinced himself he didn’t. Besides drinking, he threw himself into working hard, and with the freedom money gives, he played even harder. He went up north and got a job working on the pipeline in Ft McMurray. The money came fast and easy and led him to a dark path of no return. He was on a high and he wasn’t coming down. It was nothing for him to blow $3000.00 in one night on drugs and alcohol. He didn’t care and did whatever he wanted, without thinking about the consequences because when he stopped, reality set in and all that he had lost sliced through him like a knife in the chest.
He has suffered through so much tragedy that he would rather be alone because no one will get close enough to hurt him again. He doesn’t live, he only exists, so much so that if you ask him, he will tell you, he isn’t afraid of dying and doesn’t even care if he does. The scars that cover his body, tell reckless tales of his life. What he is truly afraid of, is love. Yes love, now that can break a man into pieces and he has those scars too.
As he walks on, he thinks to himself, he sometimes wishes for a second chance at love and to have purpose in his life. A do over, to be who he should have been. To have a wife and children of his own and to pass along what his mother and father taught him. He wonders if he had a family of his own, someone to love him, would he have turned out the way he did.
His mind drifts back to that pretty girl he fell madly in love with. They were both 18 years old and she had beautiful long brown hair, she was petit and fun to be around. He loved the way she smiled at him and how her eyes would crinkle at the edges. What he will never forget is her laugh and the way she made everyone smile when she did, she would throw her head back, slap her knee and let out a cackle that gave her Kohkom a run for her money. He wondered what ever became of her. He still misses her if he thought about it and wishes he could go back in time and see her again, he would make different choices but her father didn’t like him so that was that, and the last time he heard, she was living in Athabasca.
At the age of 53, he is now sober from alcohol for past 4 years, but in all honesty, he traded one addiction for another. Drugs are his constant companion now.
He doesn’t feel sorry for himself anymore, and to be honest, what’s the use. He regrets everything but in the same breath, he regrets nothing. He has given up on his dreams and it doesn’t matter like it used to. That is what he tells himself anyway.
His life is simple and he owns the day, there is freedom in that and as he rounds the corner by the IGA, he spots some bottles in the garbage bin so he shakes off his thoughts and continues on, there is work to be done…